Ruth Harwood papers, 1911-1973

Overview of the Collection

Harwood, Ruth, 1896-1959
Ruth Harwood papers
1911-1973 (inclusive)
8.25 linear feet, (9 boxes)
Collection Number
MS 0375
The Ruth Harwood papers (1911-1973) contains correspondence, writings, artwork, poetry, notes, pamphlets, programs, news articles, and certificates. Although most of the materials are by or about Ruth Harwood, the collection also contains materials Ruth collected herself concerning her family, friends, and other writers and artists.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT

Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Ruth Harwood was the second child of five born to James Taylor and Harriet Richards Harwood. She was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1896 and spent most of her childhood growing up around the Salt Lake area. However, she did spend much time in Paris, France, with her family as her mother and father were both artists wanting to experience the rich ambience there. Ruth's father became a well-known artist in both the United States and Europe; his artwork was often displayed in Utah and at the Paris Salon in France. For many of his paintings, James Harwood used Ruth as a child model.

Ruth, therefore, grew up in an environment that allowed freedom of thought and expression and focused on the beautiful in life. Starting in the early years of her life, Ruth was sensitive to the beauties of nature. In his autobiography, A Basket of Chips, her father writes of her, "Our trips on the hillsides to gather wild flowers in early spring when she was two or three years old were a joy. She would not be satisfied until our arms were loaded with all we could carry and the same with herself, and then she would feel bad because we could not carry any more." (p. 48)

Nature seems to have been Ruth's love from childhood through adulthood. It is apparent throughout her artwork and poetry. She used the shapes of animals, plants, and flowers as forms for the fluid lines in her drawings and nature in her fullness provided inspiration for the lines in her poetry.

Along with her having a love for nature, those who knew Ruth during her childhood and adolescent years have described her as imaginative, very carefree, and often mischievous. An example of the latter is told by her father in his autobiography--"Her mischievous tendencies were well developed. I think of one incident that is fairly representative. Our neighbors had set out their garbage for the morning scavengers. Ruth saw the tips of some suspicious containers peeking out of the can. (This was during the time of prohibition.) The next morning our neighbors were surprised, but not delighted to find a soldierly array of beer and whisky bottles decorating their front steps." (p. 120)

Her imagination and carefree nature, though, were nurtured by her parents. She would often be found acting out a character from an imaginary scene made up at the spur of the moment or wandering through her father's gardens. Because of these whimsical fantasies and carefree nature, the rigidities of school did not come easy to Ruth. Her "school records were usually a very 'low tide' (she was always revolting) until her last year at the University of Utah." (A Basket of Chips, p. 120) She had entered the University of Utah around 1916 and graduated with a degree in English in 1920. While at the university, Ruth finally shared her poetic talents which resulted in her winning a prize for best poetry of the year 1919-1920. After graduation, she moved with her family to California and there attended the University of California at Berkeley. She began her graduate studies in the graphic arts program but did not stop writing poetry. In fact, while at Berkeley, she entered a poetry contest and won the Emily Chamberlain Cook prize for the best unpublished group of poems during the year.

It was the combination of her graphic art and poetry that finally allowed Ruth to fully express herself. Ruth has described herself as always knowing she was different from most children and adults. She never truly fit in. She preferred to be out in nature, alone, always thinking and dreaming. In Ruth's book Temple Builders, the main character, Joan, describes her feelings of being different from others. Her feelings mirror those of the author--"Sometimes she [Joan] felt as though she belonged more with trees than she did with human beings. Perhaps some power had misplaced her and given to her soul the simplicity which should have found a place in bird or weed or tree. Perhaps she was a dryad lost from her home-tree. Perhaps mischievous elves had caught her in their nets of gossamer and had exchanged her with a mortal child. As she grew older she had learned the language of people, yet searched ever for another language hidden behind the meaning of their words. Always there was a wistful cry sounding along the edges of her heart. Always there was the stir of dreams, their substance long since forgotten, but their afterglow still remaining." (p. 66)

Ruth was developing this "other language" throughout her life, through her poetry and art. Her poetry is beautiful because she is able to convey many difficult feelings and thoughts in such a simplistic way so that every reader can share with her. Anyone can understand her poetry and is not shut out by too much abstract thought. Ruth once said of art that it "should be an everyday thing. Something that can be understood by all instead of something awesome, that everyone wonders exactly what it is all about." I believe that she would feel the same about her poetry. She writes about so many things, from death to shoelaces. Her poetry can bring a smile to one's face or tears to the eyes in sadness. Ruth seems to have written more in the latter mood than the former. She once said that "Lyrics do not flow as readily to the happy heart as to the wistful and so in more prosaic hours one branches into long narrative poems, and short stories and even embryo novels." However, her hopeful and joyous outlook on life certainly shines in her "happy songs," as she often called her poetry.

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Ruth remained in that same state while her family moved back to Utah. She had a little home up in the hills that she often wrote about and published much of her poetry on a hand press there. She continued with her art and poetry interests in a greeting card business she had started while in school and by lecturing, teaching, and exhibiting her artwork around the United States. She was a supervisor of art in the 1930s at the New Mexico State Teacher's College and served as a design instructor at the University of Utah. Ruth also traveled to New York, Paris, and Italy to further her artistic and poetic talents.

Because of her travels, Ruth was able to meet many new people and form new relationships. One of those people she met and became good friends with was a famous dancer by the name of Ruth St. Denis. This "other Ruth" had much in common with Ruth Harwood in that they both wrote poetry, they were both artistic (albeit in different ways), and they were both very interested in spiritualism, a philosophical belief that all reality is, in essence, spiritual. A belief in spiritualism became Ruth's life. It can be seen in much of her poetry and artwork and comes very close to defining Ruth as a person. She became a member of the Temple Builders, a spiritualistic society, and often wrote essays and poetry and drew illustrations for spiritualistic publications.

A great deal of Ruth's poetry and art has been published, much of it by Ruth's own hand. Golden Benediction (1946), The Life Blossom (1939), The Lyric Road, Songs from the Lyric Road (1922), Toward the Light (1936), Vistas to Venus (1937), and Way of the Light Templars were all written by Ruth. As mentioned before, many other publications have included her works of art and poetry.

In going through her published and unpublished works, it is interesting to note that she gave many of her poems different titles and chose to put certain poems with certain works of art at one time, only to put that same piece of poetry with another work of art another time. There are definitely some poems that Ruth always seemed to put with specific works of art, but for the most part, she chose to pick and choose with every situation, whether it was for publication or just for her own sake.

Ruth Harwood died in Yucaipa, California, on 9 March 1959.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Ruth Harwood papers (1911-1973) is a collection of materials relating to Ruth Harwood (1896-1959), an artist and poet. Included are correspondence, writings, artwork, poetry, notes, pamphlets, programs, news articles, and certificates. Although most of the materials are by or about Ruth Harwood, the collection also contains materials Ruth collected herself concerning her family, friends, and other writers and artists. The collection is divided into three sections.

Section I consists of personal materials dating from 1917 to 1973 and comprises the first box of the collection. This box houses biographical information on Ruth and correspondence, writings, notes, artwork, pamphlets, and news articles she collected from her family and friends. Materials concerning her mother, Harriet Harwood, her father, James T. Harwood, her sister, June Harwood, and her step-mother, Ione Harwood, are included. Also, items from friend, Eve M. Bate, teacher, B. Rowland Lewis, fellow artist, Vere L. Mathews, and fellow poet and spiritualist, Ruth St. Denis, are in this box.

Writings by Ruth and others are in Section II. They can be found in boxes 2-5 and date from 1922 to 1946. Boxes 2-4 contain Ruth's writings, which are organized alphabetically according to their titles. Poetry, essays, and published works are included. Box 5 contains unidentifiable writings, including poetry, thoughts, and short stories. The style suggests many of them, however, to be authored by Ruth. There are other writings that are obviously by other authors and collected by Ruth.

The last section, Section III, consists of artwork by Ruth, her students, and other artists. Pen and pencil sketches, reproductions, designs, paintings, and hand-created greeting cards are included. These materials are in boxes 6-9 and date from 1911 to 1922. Most of these items, however, are undated. It would seem, though, that many of them were created after 1922, even up to the 1950s, but this cannot be definitely determined. Also included in this section are a leather portfolio with designs hand-cut by Ruth and graduation certificates from East High School, the University of Utah, and the University of California at Berkeley.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library's Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Gift of Rhoda Thomas in 1983.

Processing Note

Processed by Allesen Peck in 1984 and Lisa DeMille in 2002.

Click here to read a statement on harmful language in library records.

Separated Materials

See also the Ruth Harwood photograph collection (P0042) in the Multimedia Division of Special Collections.

Related Materials

Forms part of the Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women's Legacy Archives.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Personal MaterialsReturn to Top

The bulk of this section contains materials collected by Harwood from family members and friends. Ruth's interest in spiritualism and her relationship with Eve M. Bate is very apparent in the correspondence in folder 3. She discusses many of her artistic and poetic endeavors. Unfortunately, these materials are undated. Also of interest is a letter from Ione, Ruth's step-mother, to Ruth in folder 5 discussing their relationship and family feelings in general.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Biographical Information
1 2
1 3
Eve M. Bate, Correspondence
circa 1940s
1 4
Harriet Harwood, Writings and Notes
1 5
Ione Harwood
This folder includes correspondence, poetry, artwork, and news clippings.
1 6
James T. Harwood, Art Exhibition Programs and News Clipping
1940; 1973
1 7
June Harwood, Correspondence
1 8
B. Roland Lewis
Correspondence and poetry sent to Lewis by Harwood.
1 9
Vere L. Mathews, Artwork and Writings
1 10-17
Ruth St. Denis
These folders contain biographical information on St. Denis, letters, a manuscript for her publication of Lotus Light, other writings, pamphlets concerning the Denishawn House for artists, news clippings, and miscellaneous materials.
1 18
Programs, Announcements, and Newsletters
1 19
News Clippings
1 20

WritingsReturn to Top

The writings in boxes 2 and 3 (folders 1-12) are undated and organized alphabetically. They include poetry, written thoughts, and some short stories. Some of the poetry has more than one title. Writings in box 3 (folders 13-16) are from when Ruth was a member of the Guild of the Temple Builders. These are mainly essay tests where she answers questions from concepts of deity to evolution. Writings on Paris include short poems and thoughts. "Poplars" is a hand-written manuscript that was later added to and published under the title Temple Builders.

Container(s) Description Dates
Writings by Harwood, A-M
3 1-12
Writings, N-Y
3 13-16
Religion Class Writings
4 1
Writings on Paris
4 2-3
4 4
"The Sun Pattern"
4 5
Golden Benediction
4 6
The Life Blossom
4 7
The Lyric Road
4 8
Songs from the Lyric Road
4 9
Toward the Light
4 10
Vistas to Venus
4 11
Way of the Light Templars
General Writings
These writings are generally untitled and unidentifiable. However, it seems most of them were written by Harwood. There are instances of poetry, quips, quotes, and other writings that are obviously by other authors, some of which are identified, but copied down by Harwood.

ArtworkReturn to Top

The artwork includes pen and pencil sketches, reproductions, designs, paintings, and hand-created greeting cards. All art in this section, except box 7 folders 5-6, is Ruth's. All stages, from beginning sketches to the final design and reproduction, of each work of art are retained together as best as possible throughout this section. The certificates in box 9 are included in this section because of their large size. They represent Ruth's gradation from grammar school, East High School, the University of Utah (B.A.), and the University of California at Berkeley (M.A.).

Container(s) Description Dates
Folders 5-6 of this box contain sketches, designs, paintings, and reproductions collected by Harwood from her students and other artists.
Oversize Artwork
This box contains a framed ink drawing by Harwood. Included is the pencil sketch from which the final image was traced.
Oversize Artwork and Materials
Box Folder
9 1-41
9 42
Leather Portfolio
This portfolio has remained in the collection because the designs were probably created and cut into the leather by Harwood. On the backside of the portfolio are the initials "RH."
9 43

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Short stories--Women authors
  • Women artists--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives
  • Women poets, American--Utah--Salt Lake City--Archives

Personal Names

  • Harwood, Ruth, 1896-1959--Archives
  • Harwood, Ruth, 1896-1959--Family--Archives

Corporate Names

  • University of Utah. Department of English--Alumni and alumnae--Archives

Form or Genre Terms

  • Biographies
  • Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
  • Drawings
  • Greeting cards
  • Illustrated works
  • Manuscripts
  • Paintings
  • Personal correspondence
  • Poetry
  • Short stories