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Anita Brenner:

A Preliminary Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Brenner, Anita, 1905-1974
Title: Anita Brenner Papers
Dates: 1923-1981
Extent: 141 boxes, 25 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder (120 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers contain material on several of Brenner's award-winning books for children, as well as her books on Mexican art, the history of the Mexican Revolution, and travel in Mexico. Also included in her papers are unpublished book projects, literary and research files, correspondence, agricultural files pertaining to her family farm in Mexico, business files of the monthly magazine Mexico/ This Month, biographical materials, diaries, photographs and personal documents.
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Gift, 2000 (Gift no. 11548)

Processed by:

Liz Murray, 2003

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center The University of Texas at Austin


Anita Brenner, author of children's literature and books on Mexican art and history, contributed articles to numerous magazines and newspapers, worked on the editorial staff of The Nation, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and Editorial Albatros, and founded the monthly magazine Mexico/ This Month. After studying at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, the University of Texas at Austin, and the National University of Mexico, she received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1934, under the direction of Franz Boas. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1930-1932, for the study of Aztec art in Europe and Mexico. Born in 1905 to Jewish immigrants in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Brenner maintained a life-long interest in art, as well as Jewish and political activism. In addition, she operated a farming business in Aguascalinetes for many years.

All aspects of her personal and professional career are reflected in her papers received by the Ransom Center as a gift from her children, Susannah and Peter Glusker. Following Brenner's death in an automobile accident in 1974, her papers remained in storage until retrieved by her daughter for use in writing the biography Anita Brenner: A Mind of Her Own. The collection was accompanied by estate lists of numbered folders which are referenced in the footnotes of Glusker's biography. This information was transferred to new folders when the material was rehoused at the Ransom Center. As much as possible, original order has been retained, along with Brenner's folder titles. However, in some cases, brittle folder tabs were missing and contents summaries had to be extrapolated.

The collection is organized in seven series: I. Books; II. Literary and Research Files; III. Correspondence, 1920s-1981; IV. Agricultural Files; V. Mexico/This Month, 1955-1971; VI. Personal; and VII. Publications.

The first series contains material on several award-winning books for children, The Boy Who Could Do Anything, I Want to Fly, and The Timid Ghost. Brenner's book on Mexican art, Idols Behind Altars (1929); her history of the Mexican Revolution, The Wind That Swept Mexico (1943 and University of Texas Press reprint, 1972); and a travel guide, Your Mexican Holiday (1932) are also represented. Included in this series are unpublished book projects such as a novelized work on Luis de Carvajal and the Carvajal family, a biography of Gonzalo de Guerrero, and a children's book on Moses. A scrapbook of reviews and articles about Brenner's activities during the 1930s provides details of her research travels and the impact of her published works.

Series II, the largest series in the collection, contains Brenner's literary and research files, including relevant correspondence. Brenner maintained her working files in subject order, including many articles written during her career as a correspondent, contributor, and columnist for magazines and newspapers such as Atlantic Monthly, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Fortune, Holiday, Jewish Morning Journal, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mademoiselle, Menorah Journal, The Nation, New York Evening Post, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and the North American Newspaper Alliance. Her journalistic career was particularly fertile during the seventeen year period between 1927-1944 when she lived in New York and was closely associated with radical political intellectuals and art movements. There are numerous folders under the headings "Art," "Mexico," and the "Spanish Civil War," topics which preoccupied much of Brenner's research and writing throughout her career. The section on the war in Spain follows an arrangement derived from lists compiled by the Brenner Estate, containing content descriptions for 121 folders of material. Many newspaper clippings, political broadsides, and publications are found in this section. Because this material dates from the early 1930s, much of it is brittle and in poor condition.

Also of interest in Series II is the photographic material gathered during Brenner's Guggenheim Fellowship for the study of pre-Spanish American art objects in Europe and Mexico. She obtained several hundred photographic prints and negatives of terracotta objects and masks from museums in Germany, Spain, England, France, Austria, and Mexico. The photographs are numbered and described on index cards, although the indexing is not complete. Access to the negatives is restricted.

Numerous research files are labeled" Fortune material" in reference to an October 1938 article Brenner wrote for a special Fortune issue on the expropriation of foreign oil companies by President Cardenas.

In all, the material in Series II covers the majority of Brenner's non-book literary output from the early 1920s to projects she was working on at the time of her death.

The bulk of Brenner's correspondence is found in Series III, arranged alphabetically by correspondent, with subject files included. There is considerable family correspondence, especially letters between Brenner and her husband, David Glusker, during their times apart from 1929 through their separation in 1951. These detailed, often daily, reports of mutual activity offer a diary-like record of day-to-day events. Other correspondents include Carleton Beals, Lucienne Bloch, Jean Charlot, Waldo Frank, Francisco Goitia, Ernest Gruening, Lowell Houser, Lucy Knox, Carlos Merida, Tina Modotti, Diego Rivera, and Edward Weston. Brenner's activities in numerous professional and political associations are also well-represented, as are her interactions with publishers.

The agricultural files in Series IV document Brenner's operation of Rancho La Barranca, the family farm in Aguascalientes, an eight-hour drive from Mexico City. From 1961 until her death, she oversaw the growing, harvesting, and marketing of a variety of fruit and produce. These files document her struggle to raise crops suitable to the climate and bring them to markets in the United States and Mexico.

Series V contains the business files of Brenner's monthly magazine Mexico/ This Month which she published in Mexico City from 1955-1971. With the assistance of the Mexican government and the Committee of U.S. Citizens for Mexico, Mexico/ This Month sought to improve social and business relations between Mexico and the United States by promoting American travel, investment, and retirement in Mexico. This series is divided into two subseries: Subseries A. Correspondence and Office Files, and Subseries B. Production Material. Subseries A combines all working files into one alphabetical arrangement, including sizeable subject groups such as financial records, promotional material, and subscriptions. The production material in Subseries B includes layouts, color separations, and printing blocks for visual material published in the magazine. A substantial number of lead-plated wooden cliches are present in the collection.

The personal papers in Series VI includes academic records, biographical material, diaries from 1925-1933, medical records, family photographs, and personal documents.

Numerous publications are included with the collection. These are listed in Series VII in three subseries: Subseries A. Magazines and Journals, Subseries B. Pamphlets and Reprints, and Subseries C. Newspapers. This material supports Brenner's research and writing interests, especially in the areas of art and politics. Newspapers and publications related to the war in Spain are particularly well-represented. Due to age and paper quality, much of this material is brittle.

A nearly complete run of Mexico/ This Month and several reels of film were transferred to appropriate departments within the Ransom Center.