Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Margaret Cousins:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator Cousins, Margaret, 1905-
Title Margaret Cousins Papers
Dates: 1921-73
Extent 35 boxes (14.5 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of Texas writer and editor Margaret Cousins include correspondence and manuscripts reflecting her career, particularly as contributor to women's magazines, as editor of Lyndon Johnson's memoir, and as senior editor at Doubleday Publishing Company.
RLIN Record # TXRC91-A12
Language English.
Access

Open for Research




Acquisition

Gift, 1973

Processed by

Donald Firsching, Kendra Trachta, Miriam Wilde, 1990.

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin


Born in Munday, Knox County, Texas, on January 26, 1905, Margaret Cousins was the first child of Walter Henry and Sue Margaret Reeves Cousins. Largely through the influence of her father, Margaret displayed an interest in pursuing a literary career at a young age. Upon graduating from Bryan Street High School in Dallas, Texas, in 1922, Cousins entered the University of Texas at Austin with a major in English literature.

When Cousins left the university in 1926, she found employment as an apprentice on her father's Southern Pharmaceutical Journal in Dallas, advancing to associate editor in 1930 and editor in 1935. Cousins moved to New York City in 1937 to work as assistant editor of the Pictorial Review. When the Pictorial Review ceased publication in 1939, she began work as a copy writer in the promotional department of Hearst Magazines, Inc. Over the next few years she read manuscripts on a free-lance basis and wrote fashion captions for Heart's Good Housekeeping, to which she had been a contributor as early as 1930, when her poem “Indian Summer” appeared in the November issue.

In 1942, Cousins became assistant editor of Good Housekeeping, advancing to managing editor three years later. According to Cousins, her primary duties at Good Housekeeping were, “reading, writing or correspondence, contacts, and production of ideas....” Cousins reached the height of her career as senior editor of Doubleday Publishing Company, a position which she held from 1961-73.

As an editor, Cousins perceived herself not only as a manager, but also as a role model for her reading public. Keenly aware of the power of the press in influencing public values, she sought to “live in a manner worthy of emulation.” This strong sense of moral imperative and vocational devotion was the driving force behind her efforts as an editor. In 1971, Cousins retired from Doubleday and went to work for Ladies' Home Journal as fiction editor. Her final retirement came in 1973, when she moved to San Antonio, Texas.

In her youth, Cousins had envisioned writing novels of social history, but the course of her career led her to write “simply to entertain.” As a writer, Cousins was known for her Romantic short stories, which appeared in many popular women's magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, McCall's, and Redbook. She produced well over two hundred in all. Some of her stories were adapted for radio, television theater, and film. “The Life of Lucy Gallant” became a full length motion picture starring Jane Wyman and Charlton Heston. In the non-fiction field, Cousins contributed a number of articles to various magazines and authored columns including “Bagdad on the Subway” and “The Innocent Bystander.”

Cousins also wrote and edited a number of books. Her first effort, a story entitled Uncle Edgar and the Reluctant Saint appeared in 1948. Her three juvenile books are Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia (1952), We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo (1958), and Thomas Alva Edison (1965). A Christmas Gift (1952) is a collection of Cousin's Christmas short stories. Her only mystery, Traffic with Evil, was published under the pseudonym Avery Johns in 1957. Love and Marriage (1961) is an anthology of stories which Cousins edited. Cousins served as a ghost writer for silent film star Colleen Moore's book, Colleen Moore's Doll House, and Margaret Truman's Souvenir (1956). She also edited Lyndon Baines Johnson's memoirs, The Vantage Point (1971), and Lady Bird Johnson's A White House Diary (1970).

Cousins involved herself actively in the Author's Guild of the Author's League of America as secretary and Magazine Committee chairperson. She spoke on occasion at conferences and meetings of various literary and educational organizations. Her career brought her into contact with many prominent literary figures and other notable personalities in the political and entertainment fields.


Correspondence, printed material, typescripts, photographs, galley proofs, and other materials document the life of Margaret Cousins, from her high school years through her career as a writer and editor. The material is arranged in three series: Writer, Editor, and Personal, in keeping with Cousins' original arrangement scheme.

Cousins' career as a writer is the focus of the first series, which consists of four subseries: Books, Short Stories and Articles, Poetry, and Writing, General. Typescripts, correspondence, and printed material are grouped together under the title of the book in the first subseries. The titles are presented chronologically by date of publication. Those books ghost written by Cousins, Big Spring, Souvenir, and Colleen Moore's Doll House, are included here. The second subseries, Short Stories and Articles, is a relatively large one, consisting primarily of Cousins' contributions to various women's magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, and Redbook. Good Housekeeping is the most heavily represented, with some fifty-seven of Cousin's contributions to the magazine appearing in her papers. Virtually every file in this subseries represents a particular short story in the form of both a typescript and a printed version. Certain articles appear under pseudonyms, such as those Cousins wrote for Playboy under the pseudonym William Masters. At the end of the subseries is a section containing Cousins' unpublished short stories and a file concerning those adapted for radio, television, theater, and film. The third subseries, Poetry, is a rather short one, primarily comprising typescripts of unpublished poetry composed by Cousins in her youth. The fourth and final subseries, Writings, General, contains materials documenting Cousins' association with the Author's Guild of the Author's League of America and a body of literary agent and publisher correspondence. The vast majority of the correspondence consists of letters sent to Cousins by her literary agent, Harold Matson Company. Also present are fan letters and letters from members of the National Magazine Company of London, with which Cousins was associated during World War II.

The second series, Editor, documents Cousins' distinguished editorial career. The series is divided into four subseries: Books and Articles, Magazines, Doubleday Publishing Company, and Public Relations. The first subseries pertains primarily to Cousins' editorial work for Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Margaret Truman. Lyndon Johnson's memoirs, The Vantage Point, is represented by two typescripts. Chapters XI, XII, XIV, XV, XVII, and XXI are missing from the first typescript and Chapters XI, XVII, and XXI from the second. Lady Bird Johnson's A White House Diary and two short articles by Margaret Truman are also represented in typescript.

In the course of her work, Cousins developed personal relationships with the Johnsons and Ms. Truman, as is apparent from the correspondence and printed material present within this subseries. For instance there are files documenting Margaret Truman's wedding in 1956 and the dedication of the LBJ Library in 1970, both of which Cousins attended.

The second subseries, Magazines, is rather small, comprising a mere four folders of primarily printed materials and correspondence pertaining to Cousin's editorial activities at Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, and Ladies' Home Journal. The third subseries, Doubleday Publishing Company, documents Cousins' activities as senior editor at Doubleday. Present are notes, printed material, and correspondence from various company meetings and special committees. However, the bulk of this subseries is comprised of correspondence and memoranda representing Cousins' day-to-day editorial activities. Also present is a folder of mail Cousins received from well-wishers upon her retirement from Doubleday in 1971 and a folder of correspondence regarding reader's reports Cousins did for Doubleday subsequent to her retirement. The final subseries, Public Relations, contains typescripts, printed materials, and correspondence representing Cousins' support for various writing programs and contests. Also included are copies of speeches Cousins made at the meetings and conferences of literary and educational organizations.

The final series, Personal, evidences how little Cousins' personal life, as she represents it, diverged from her professional one. This series includes several files containing articles about Cousins dating from her high school days through her return to Texas in 1973. Ever conscious of her professional image, Cousins meticulously collected materials relating to her New York residences. Particularly well-represented is her much vaunted, custom built house near Dobbs Ferry, New York. The papers contain everything from blueprints and legal documents to magazine articles on the house. Cousins' personal correspondence is perhaps the most interesting group of materials in the papers. Included are letters from Joan Crawford, Ethel Merman, Margaret Mitchell, Ogden Nash, J.C Penney, Mike Wallace, Herman Wouk, William F. Buckley, and J. Frank Dobie. Also present are five folders of invitations to sundry social events. Two of the more significant occasions, the inauguration of Alan Simpson as president of Vassar College and a dinner in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, are represented in separate folders. Five folders of photographs, several diplomas, and a poetry scrapbook complete the papers.

The Cousins papers provide a fairly thorough retrospective of her life and work. However, it is more than evident that Cousins assembled her papers with an audience in mind. While certainly informative, the numerous explanatory notes Cousins placed throughout the papers and the materials she collected definitely reflect the image of how she wants to be remembered. Regardless, researchers will find these papers a rich source of information regarding the life of an extremely dedicated and highly able writer and editor of popular literature.

Several runs of correspondence in the papers have been indexed. Correspondence with members of the Authors League of America in box 16, incoming correspondence from literary agents and editors in box 17, editorial correspondence from Cousins' years at Doubleday in boxes 25-27, and incoming personal correspondence in boxes 32-36 is indexed at the end of this finding aid.


Diploma from University of Texas at Austin (16 in. × 13 in.)

Bracelet with award tokens received for writing at University of Texas at Austin

Two stained glass fragments from bombed-out House of Commons

Four framed sketches by Henrik Willem van Loon (7.2 in. × 6.5 in.)

Cigarrette case, gift from Clyde Lasswell, US Navy

Galleys in Galley File--

Cousins. “Is Fiction Here to Stay?” 6 pp.

Cousins. Thomas A. Edison. 44 pp.

Johnson, Lady Bird. A White House Diary. 330 pp.

Johnson, Lyndon B. The Vantage Point. 192 pp.

Books removed to HRC book collections--

Ben Franklin of Old Phildelphia, New York: Random House, 1952.

Christmas Gift, Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1952.

Edison et la Grande Aventure de L'Electricite', Paris: Fernand Nathan, 1970. (French translation of The Story of Thomas Alva Edison)

Love and Marriage, Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1961.

The Story of Thomas Alva Edison, New York: Random House, 1965.

Thomas Alva Edison: The Man Who Lighted the World, Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, 1965. (paperback version of The Story of Thomas Alva Edison)

Uncle Edgar and the Reluctant Saint, New York: Farrar Straus and Company, 1948.

We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo, New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1958.


Correspondents

Abbe, James.

Albee, Edward, 1928- .

Arteseros, Sally.

Bass, Mary.

Behrman, S. N. (Samuel Nathaniel), 1893-1973.

Berger, Bill.

Blassingame, Lurton, 1904-1988.

Bolton, Guy, 1884- .

Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973.

Brown, Helen Gurley.

Calkins, Earnest Elmo, 1868-1964.

Carter, John Mack.

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.

Chambrun, Jacques.

Chidester, Ann.

Chute, B. J. (Beatrice Joy), 1913-1987.

Congdon, Don.

Crager, Tess.

Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977.

Davenport, Marcia. 1903- .

Davis, Gene.

de Mohrenschildt, George.

Deal, Borden, 1922- .

Demic, Joseph.

Denny, Dorothy.

Dolson, Hildegarde.

Drury, Michael.

Enright, Elizabeth, 1909-1968.

Erdman, Loula Grace.

Ernst, Morris Leopold, 1888- .

Eunson, Dale, 1904- .

Fadiman, Clifton, 1904- .

Ferber, Edna, 1887-1968.

Fitz-Gibbon, Bernice.

Giller, Jasha.

Gordey, Beverly.

Gordon, Elizabeth.

Graham, Janet.

Green, Charles E.

Greene, A. C.

Greene, Bertram.

Haggard, Edith.

Hart, Moss, 1904-1961.

Hassell, Jennifer.

Horgan, Paul, 1903- .

Hunt, Hamlen.

Jackson, Charles.

Janeway, Elizabeth.

Jones, Andrew.

Kienholz, Cheryl.

Knowlton, Perry.

Lane, Marilyn.

Lasswell, Mary, 1905- .

Lee, Marjorie.

Littauer, Kenneth.

Long, Daniel J.

Lowe, Violet Richardson.

Luce, Clare Boothe, 1903-1987.

Lyons, Ruth.

Marker, Mary M.

Matson, Harold.

Matson, Peter H.

Mauran, Grace Amundson.

McCormick, Ken.

McNamara, Marian.

Meehan, Jeannette Porter.

Merman, Ethel, 1909- .

Metzger, Evelyn.

Michailovsky, Burnett.

Moore, Colleen, 1902- .

Moore, Marie D.

Morrison, Henry.

Nash, Ogden, 1902-1971.

O'Connell, Jack J.

Olding, Dorothy.

Oppenheimer, Evelyn, 1907- .

Otis, Elizabeth.

Patterson, Mary King.

Patterson, Pearl L.

Reynolds, Paul Revere, 1904- .

Roberts, Ellin K.

Robsjohn-Gibbings, T. H.

Rogers, Willie Mae.

Ross, Nancy Wilson, 1901-1986.

Sage, Jean.

Schaffner, John.

Schmitt, Gladys.

Slater, Leonard.

Smith, Robert Paul.

Stout, Rex, 1886-1975.

Swan, Oliver G.

Swanson, H. N.

Trahey, Jane.

Vaughan, Samuel S.

Vidor, King, 1894-1982.

Volkening, Henry.

Walker, Robert,.

Wallace, Lois.

Ware, Harlan.

Watt, Peter.

Webb, Barbara.

Weir, Walter.

Westheimer, David.

Wheatly, Rosalie S.

White, Jack Palmer.

Winston, Martha.

Organizations

Cosmopolitan.

Doubleday & Company, inc.

Good housekeeping.

Ladies' home journal.

McCall's.

Redbook.

Author's League of America.

Document Types Blueprints. Drawings. Galley proofs. Photographs. Sketches.