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Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Nancy Wilson Ross:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Ross, Nancy Wilson, 1901-1986
Title: Nancy Wilson Ross Papers 1913-1986
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.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchase, 1972 (R5717)
Provenance 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.

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

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.

Scope and Contents

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.

Series Descriptions

Separated Material

Sound recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recording collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.

Index Terms


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

Nancy Wilson Ross Papers--Folder List