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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in four series, and one series of unprocessed materials (2 Record Cartons).
This collection contains material related to the life of Ernestine Evans and others in her broad network of friends and colleagues. Correspondence, both personal and professional, and literary manuscripts, constitute the bulk of the collection. The majority of the letters date from the 1940s onward; Evans' early correspondence is not a part of this collection. The collection contains dozens of literary manuscripts; most of these probably belong to authors for whom Evans served as literary agent. Evans' own written work is also available here in the form of clippings and other printed material. Moreover, the collection contains a considerable number of personal documents that offer insight into the practicalities of Evans' life, including notebooks, contact lists, passports, medical documents and financial records. Copious photographs on a range of subjects, as well as a variety of mostly unattributed life-drawings and paintings, constitute the considerable array of visual material that this collection also contains.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Ernestine Evans Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Joseph Barnes Papers, 1907-1970, 1923-1970 Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker Paper, 1914-1950 Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Ownership and Custodial History
Gift of Frances Hubbard Flaherty, 1968.
Gift of Ross G. Harrison, III, 1995.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 06/--/1989.
Collection Processed Annie Rudd, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism 2013 2009.
Finding aid Written Annie Rudd, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism 2013 05/--/2009.
2011-03-18 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Ernestine Evans was a prolific female journalist, author, editor and literary agent active in the early-to-mid twentieth century.
Evans was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1889. The first of two children born to Arthur and Allie Evans (her brother, Ward, was born in 1893). Looking back on her childhood, she would later write that her family rarely lived in the same dwelling for more than a year at a time. Evans' father, a lawyer, had difficulty finding steady work, and her mother was seriously ill for much of Evans' early life; she died when Evans was 16 years old.
Evans matriculated at the University of Chicago around 1908, where she undertook a Bachelor of Philosophy degree, specializing in English and Economics and taking a journalism course led by the sociologist George Edgar Vincent.
It was also during her college years that Evans's career as a journalist began in earnest. During the latter two years of her degree, Evans served as Assistant to the Editor of the university's Astrophysical Journal, and her boss, also the University of Chicago's Dean of Science, Henry Gordon Gale, gave her an uncommon degree of freedom with this post: in addition to extensive fact-checking and other quotidian duties, Evans was often given the opportunity to write articles for the Journal under Gale's name.
Upon graduating in 1912, Evans found a job at the Chicago Inter Ocean, a daily newspaper aimed at an elite readership. Initially Evans was charged with writing articles for the paper's Sunday features pages, but she was soon promoted and became the assistant to the Inter Ocean's political editor. With this position, she covered the suffrage movement, and traveled to Washington on assignment. Evans' time at the Inter Ocean was cut short, however: the newspaper folded not long after she joined its ranks. With this job lost, Evans found a job as assistant editor at the New York Press, a daily penny paper with a reputation for "yellow" journalism. Evans remained at this job for about a year.
Evans was offered an assignment for The Independent, a weekly journal based in Boston, which would require her to travel to Eastern Europe to cover prohibition in Russia. Evans was not offered any travel money for the assignment, but she had some leftover pay from previous writing jobs, and so she set off for Russia. The article that she wrote was rejected by Russian censors, and it was never published. Still, Evans' travels in Europe in pursuit of "the story" seem to have stuck with her, and she began to travel to Europe quite regularly, working as a freelance foreign correspondent for publications that included the New York Tribune, The Nation and Asia Magazine. She would later write of her experiences reporting from Moscow during the Russian Revolution as gunfire was exchanged outside her hotel window.
Evans also involved herself with women's suffrage. In the years preceding and following the United States' decision to grant women the vote in 1920, Evans wrote for The Suffragist, an organ of the National Woman's Party, which later changed its name to Equal Rights. She also reported on the suffrage movement in Britain for the Philadelphia Public Ledger.
After the end of World War I, Evans returned to the United States, where she found work as features editor of the Christian Science Monitor. Her responsibilities included buying eleven columns per day, as well as many illustrations, for the paper. Through the mid-1920s she continued to work as a freelance journalist, and wrote articles for The Nation, Century Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly, the Manchester Guardian, and others; she also served as Paris correspondent for Reynolds News Agency. Moreover, during these years she produced the children's book review supplement for The New Republic, which contained articles and reviews by Bertrand Russell, Charles A. Beard, Genevieve Taggard, Babette Deutsch, and Lewis Mumford, among others, including Evans.
During these years Evans also worked at the Whitney Studio Club, a meeting place--founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney--for artists living in Greenwich Village. There, Evans learned about painting and becoming involved in the neighborhood's growing art scene. Through her connections at the Whitney Studio Club, Evans was hired as an assistant editor at Coward-McCann, a publishing company whose start-up had also been funded by Whitney. The first book she brought to the firm was a children's title, Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats, a spectacular success which, having sold millions of copies since its publication, is still in print today.
In 1929, Evans authored a book of her own: Frescoes of Diego Rivera, a large-format publication that featured the work of the Mexican artist. Evans, who had previously traveled to Mexico as a reporter for the New York Times, and had written of the working-class appeal of Rivera's work, was responsible for every aspect of the book from start to finish; on its publication, it was the first English-language book on Rivera, and has been cited as a key document in Rivera's rise to popularity in the English-speaking world.
Evans left Coward-McCann in 1930, taking a job with Lippincott, another publishing house. Evans' Lippincott career, like her previous position, allowed her to travel extensively to scout new books. She also oversaw Lippincott's children's publications.
With the rise of the Great Depression, Evans moved to Washington, and went to work for Rexford Tugwell, the head of the Resettlement Administration (RA), an initiative established in 1935, as part of the New Deal, to ease the effects of the Depression on Americans by relocating struggling families to planned communities. Evans pushed for Tugwell to hire the little-known photographer Walker Evans (no relation to Ernestine), who she had previously worked with in her publishing career, to document the RA's accomplishments, believing that both the abject poverty many Americans were enduring, and the government's efforts to allay it, would be best illustrated by photographs. Evans also hired several additional photographers, including Ben Shahn, to undertake similar documentary work for the RA; virtually all of them would go on to enjoy great success as photographers for Life magazine and/or Magnum photo agency. Ernestine Evans was, in addition, responsible for proposing the Works Progress Administration Guides, a series of guidebooks to regions of the United States that were part of the Federal Writers' Project. The project employed hundreds of unemployed writers and researchers, and many of the guides are still in print today.
As the Great Depression ended, Evans returned to her previous occupations of freelance journalist, literary agent, and world traveler. She went to London as a book scout, worked as a researcher for Fortune magazine, and reported on Finland for a "March of Time" newsreel about the country. As World War II began, she returned to the United States. She again went to work for the government in 1943, securing a job with the Office of War Information (OWI). With this position, Evans assisted in efforts to engineer America's image for domestic and foreign audiences. With the large, internationally dispersed network of friends and colleagues that Evans had accumulated, she continued to learn about foreign cultures through her correspondence with friends situated in other places.
From about 1944 until the early 1950s, Evans worked as a book reviewer for the New York Herald Tribune's weekly supplement, but as she grew older fewer writing jobs opened up for her.
Evans died in 1967.