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Nancy Wilson Ross:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Ross, Nancy Wilson, 1901-1986
Title: Nancy Wilson Ross Papers
Dates: 1913-1986
Extent: 261.5 document cases, 12 flat boxes, 18 card boxes, 7 galley folders (138 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of this American writer encompass her entire literary career and include manuscript drafts, extensive correspondence, and subject files reflecting her interest in Eastern cultures.
RLIN Record #: TXRC94-A19
Language English.

Open for research


Purchase, 1972 (R5717)


Ross's first shipment of materials to the Ransom Center accompanied her husband Stanley Young's papers, and consisted of Ross's literary output to 1975, including manuscripts, publications, and research materials. The second, posthumous shipment contained manuscripts created since 1974, and all her correspondence, personal, and financial files, as well as files concerning the estate of Stanley Young.

Processed by

Rufus Lund, 1992-1993; completed by Joan Sibley, 1994

Processing note: Materials from the 1975 and 1986 shipments are grouped following Ross's original order, with the exception of pre-1970, special, and current correspondence which were interfiled during processing. An index of selected correspondents follows at the end of this inventory.

Repository: :

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Nancy Wilson was born in Olympia, Washington, on November 22, 1901. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1924, and married Charles W. Ross of Auburn, New York, three years later. They studied at the Bauhaus in Germany 1931-33, then returned to live in New York City for four years. From 1938 to 1942 they lived on Hood Canal in Washington State. Her second marriage was to publisher and playwright Stanley Young in 1942. They made their home on the Whitney estate 'Applegreen,' Old Westbury, Long Island.

As Nancy Wilson, her first published novel was Friday to Monday (1932). Her first magazine story had appeared in 1924. She published five novels of contemporary life and culture under the name of Nancy Wilson Ross, illustrating the experience, the developing self-knowledge, and the spiritual growth of her characters. The novels include Take the Lightning (1940), The Left Hand Is the Dreamer (1947), I, My Ancestor (1950), Time's Corner (1952), and The Return of Lady Brace (1957). Culminating years of interest in Asian religion and art, her last three books introduced Buddhism to Western readers: The World of Zen: an East-West Anthology (1960), Three Ways of Asian Wisdom (1966), and Buddhism, a Way of Life and Thought (1980). In addition, she wrote about the Pacific Northwest in The Farthest Reach (1941) and about the pioneer settlers of that region in Westward the Women (1944). Joan of Arc (1952), Thor's Visit to the Land of Giants (1959), and Heroines of the Early West (1960) are the books she wrote for juvenile readers. Throughout her career Ross had many articles and reviews published in such magazines as Harper's Bazaar, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review.

Ross served on the board of the Asia Society from its founding by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956 until 1985. She was an inspiring and life-long friend to many: faculty at the University of Oregon from the 1920s; a circle of artists, dancers, and actors associated with Dartington Hall in Devon and the Cornish School in Seattle from the 1930s; and an intellectual set in New York City that included Mary and Paul Mellon from the 1930s and 40s. Through her husband Stanley Young's career associates and her own literary successes, Ross engendered friendships with a number of New York editors, publishers, and theatre people.

Ross and her husband Stanley Young sold their personal and literary papers to the University of Texas in 1972. The sale was enabled by a matching grant for purchase and cataloging from the Avon (later Jerome) Foundation.

After her husband's death in 1975, Ross was increasingly involved with Buddhism. During the last ten years of her life a member of the San Francisco Zen Center shared her house and helped organize her papers. Ross died Jan. 18, 1986, in Vero Beach, Florida.

The Nancy Wilson Ross Papers, 1913-86, contain virtually complete documentation of her professional writing career, extensive personal correspondence, and files reflecting her interest in Far Eastern culture. Types of materials found in the collection include holograph manuscript notes; typed manuscripts, carbons, and photocopies; photographs; galley and page proofs; contracts and royalty statements; book announcements; dust jackets; publicity clippings; correspondence; pencil, ink, and watercolor sketches; reports; exhibit announcements and catalogs; newspaper clippings; and periodical publications. The collection is arranged in eleven series: I. Literary Works, 1913-85 (94 boxes); II. Agents & Publishers, 1929-85 (9 boxes); III. C. V. Whitney Pictures, Inc., 1954-56 (5 boxes); IV. Correspondence, 1916-85 (69 boxes); V. Legal & Personal Files, 1937-85 (21 boxes); VI. Association Boards & Memberships, 1953-85 (30 boxes); VII. Personal Finances, 1942-86 (24 boxes); VIII. Clipping File, 1931-85 (16 boxes); IX. Personal Library Card Catalog, 1974 (9 boxes); X. Art File, 1930-85 (12 boxes); XI. Photographs, 1917-1984 (2.5 boxes).

Early drafts and working manuscripts of fourteen published books and an unpublished first novel, manuscripts or publication copies of her short stories, poetry, articles, and reviews, notes and tapes of her lectures and an interview, along with a supplementary file of correspondence with literary agents and publishers document her writing career. Ross's scouting duties for C. V. Whitney Pictures, Inc., 1954-56, are documented by correspondence and readers' reports.

Personal records include extensive correspondence with friends and family, legal files, financial records, a clipping file a file of art exhibit announcements, and photographs. Personal correspondence identified as 'special' on Ross's 1981 guide to her files (see folder 97.17) includes correspondence with her husband, Stanley Young, her sister Peg Keblish, and her friends Edward Beck, Sam T. Berkeley-Hill, Camille Bovard, Dorothy Whitney Elmhirst, Gerald Heard, Jerome Hill, Elizabeth Jay Hollins, William O. Douglas, Morris Graves, Paul and Mary Mellon, Maud Oakes, Robert Osborne, Beatrice Straight, and Mark Tobey.

Other important correspondents listed in Ross's 'Literary Memorabilia' list (see folder 97.17) include such varied figures as Evelyn Perkins Ames, Merle Armitage, Elizabeth Bowen, Marguerite Caetani, John Cage, Joseph Campbell, Carl Carmer, Hope Cooke, Margaret Cousins, Malcolm Cowley, Isak Dinesen, E. M. Forster, John Kenneth Galbraith, Indira Gandhi, Allen Ginsberg, Martha Graham, Aldous Huxley, Wassily Kandinsky, Alfred and Blanche Knopf, C. S. Lewis, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Robert Lowell, Thomas Merton, Marianne Moore, Lewis Mumford, John D. Rockefeller III, Theodore Roethke, Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Scott, Zachary Scott, Gary Snyder, Jean Stafford, Allen Tate, Gloria Vanderbilt, Alan Watts, Eudora Welty, Thornton Wilder, Audrey Wood, and many others.

The correspondence also contains letters concerning the Bauhaus in the Lyonel Feininger, Mira and Armin Lührs, and 'German Letters' files. Paul Klee is represented by a few letters and by Ross's piece in Five Essays on Paul Klee (1950). Letters and publications describing Dartington Hall, an experimental center in theatre, dance, crafts, and agriculture, exist in correspondence with the founders, Leonard and Dorothy Whitney Elmhirst, 1937-74.

Correspondence, organization records, and publications represent Ross's participation on the boards of the Asia Society, the Tibetan Foundation, the Martha Graham Foundation, on the Authors Guild Council, her membership in the Cosmopolitan Club (New York), and her association with the San Francisco Zen Center. There are extensive files on Zen Buddhism in the United States in the Association series, including newsletters and reports, and much individual correspondence with members of the San Francisco Zen Center, including its leaders Richard Baker and Yvonne Rand, 1968-83.

The Ross Papers came to the Harry Ransom Center in 1975, accompanied by a box list (see folder 235.9), and comprising mostly literary manuscripts. A final shipment arrived after her death in 1986, without inventory, containing literary work after 1975, all her personal correspondence, and financial records.

Original order was maintained in processing to the extent that series and subseries roughly reflect Ross's organization in file cabinets and in her 1975 shipment. Current and back correspondence were interfiled in processing. Oversize materials are housed in flat boxes, approximately following the main box number sequence.

In 1993 the manuscripts and correspondence were treated by the diethyl zinc deacidification process. The contents of boxes 9, 16-18, 34-35, 43, 45-47, 50, 63, 68, consisting of photographs and oversize documents were not treated, nor were materials (mainly cards and printed matter) in boxes 183-196, 206-209, 239-250.

Other Nancy Wilson Ross materials are located in several other collections at the HRC: Merle Armitage, Thomas Bertram Costain, Margaret Cousins, Morris Ernst, Harpers, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and Charles Norman. Ross's personal library is also present, and can be accessed through the Collections File card catalog and/or the online catalog, UTCAT. Items withdrawn from these books are now located in the HRC Vertical File.


Allen, Steve, 1921-

Ames, Evelyn Perkins

Armitage, Merle, 1893-1975

Auchincloss, Janet

Baird, Bil, 1904-1987

Beck, Edward

Benoit, Hubert

Berkeley-Hill, Sam T.

Birla, Saraladevi

Bliven, Bruce

Bovard, Camille

Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973

Brooks, Van Wyck, 1886-1963

Browne, Ellen van Volkenburg

Burtt, Edwin A. (Edwin Arthur), 1892-

Caetani, Marguerite

Cage, John

Cahill, James, 1926-

Campbell, Joseph, 1904-

Canfield, Cass, 1897-

Carmer, Carl Lamson, 1893-

Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971

Chakravarti, Amiya Chandra

Childs, Marquis William, 1903-

Collins, Priscilla

Collins, William

Cooke, Hope, 1940-

Cooper, Merian C.

Cornish, Nellie Centennial, 1876-1956

Courtney, Marguerite, 1904-

Cousins, Margaret, 1905-

Cowley, Malcolm, 1898-

de Schulthess, Fritz

de Schulthess, Monica

Dinesen, Isak, 1885-1962

Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-

Edel, Leon, 1907-

Elmhirst, Dorothy Whitney

Elmhirst, Leonard Knight, 1893-1974

Elmhirst, William K.

Ernst, Alice Henson, 1880-1980

Forster, E.M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970

Galbraith, John Kenneth, 1908-

Gandhi, Indira, 1917-1984

Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-

Giroux, Robert

Goldberg, Bertrand, 1913-

Graham, Aelred, 1907-

Graham, Martha

Graves, Morris, 1910-

Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969

Guthrie, Tyrone, Sir, 1900-1971

Hale, Nancy, 1908-

Haydn, Hiram Collins, 1907-1973

Heard, Gerald, 1889-1971

Henderson, Joseph L. (Joseph Lewis), 1903-

Hill, Jerome, 1905-1972

Hollins, Elizabeth Jay

Howe, Helen Huntington, 1905-

Humphreys, Christmas, 1901-

Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963

Johnson, Lady Bird, 1912-

Johnson, Philip, 1906-

Kandinsky, Wassily, 1866-1944

Keblish, Peg Wilson

Keene, Donald

Klee, Paul, 1879-1940

Knopf, Alfred, 1892-1984

Knopf, Blanche, 1894-1966

Kramrisch, Stella, 1898-

Laise, Carol C.

Landry, Lionel

Laughlin, James, 1914-

Lavin, Mary, 1912-

Lewis, C.S. (Clive Staples), 1898-1963

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, 1906-

Lowell, Robert, 1917-1977

Lührs, Armin

Lührs, Mira

Margo, 1918?-1985

Mellon, Mary, 1905-1946

Mellon, Paul

Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968

Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972

Mumford, Lewis, 1895-

Murray, Henry Alexander, 1893-

Mus, Paul, 1902-1969

Norman, Dorothy, 1905-

Nu, U.

Oakes, Maud, 1903-

Ober, Harold, 1881-1959

Odlin, Richard

Osborne, Robert

Palden Thondup Namgyal, Chogyal of Sikkim, 1923-

Pallis, Marco, 1905-

Pandit, Vijaya Lakshmi, 1900-

Paw U, Richard

Radhakrishnan, S. (Sarvepalli), 1888-1975

Raine, Kathleen, 1908-

Rambova, Natacha

Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968

Robinson, Henry Morton, 1898-1961

Rockefeller, Blanchette Hooker, 1909-

Rockefeller, John D., 1906-

Roethke, Theodore, 1908-1963

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962

Ross, Charles Walton

Roy, Sunil

Sasaki, Ruth Fuller

Scott, Paul, 1920-

Scott, Zachary

Sherbert, Paul C.

Singh, Nirmaljit

Snyder, Gary

Stafford, Jean, 1915-

Stevens, Roger L.

Stevens, Christine

Straight, Beatrice

Straight, Michael Whitney

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro, 1870-1966

Suzuki, Shunryu, 1904-

Tate, Allen, 1899-

Terkel, Studs, 1912-

Thompson, William Irwin

Tobey, Mark

Valentin, Curt, 1902-1954

Vanderbilt, Gloria, 1924-

Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964

Vidal, Gore, 1925-

von Barnekow, Erik

Wadsworth, Cleomé Carroll

Watts, Alan, 1915-1973

Welty, Eudora, 1909-

Whitney, C.V. (Cornelius Vanderbilt), 1899-

Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975

Wilkie, Margot

Willard, Marian, 1904-

Wood, Audrey, 1905-

Wright, Clifford

Young, Kenneth, 1916-

Young, Stanley, 1906-1975


Asia Society

C.V. Whitney Pictures, Inc.

Harold Ober Associates

Martha Graham Foundation

San Francisco Zen Center (San Francisco, Calif.)

Tibetan Foundation


Dartington Hall (Totnes, England)

American authors



Frontier and pioneer life--The West


Women authors

Women--The West

Zen Buddhism


Document Types


Exhibition catalogs

Financial records

Galley proofs

Legal documents