Janet Marshall Stevenson papers , 1929-1996

Overview of the Collection

Stevenson, Janet, 1913-2009
Janet Marshall Stevenson papers
1929-1996 (inclusive)
17.75 linear feet, (15 containers)
Collection Number
Ax 265
Author Janet Marshall Stevenson (1913- ) has made contributions as a writer of civil rights, the women's movement and the arts. This collection contains manuscripts, holographs and photographs of her many short stories, articles and books; within this collection are research items and family papers associated with her biography of Robert W. Kenny, an influential liberal that championed the rights of several of the "Hollywood 10" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary. Series XI: The Last Town in Oregon is closed until the author's death.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Janet Marshall Stevenson has been a novelist, playwright, biographer, a teacher, a journalist, and a social activist during her long life. Stevenson has written on civil rights, the women's and the peace movements, and the environment. In the early 1950s she was fired from the University of Southern California for alleged ties with the communist party. In 2003, at the age of 90, Stevenson was still politically active and still writing.

She was born on February 4, 1913 in Chicago, Illinois to John C. and Atlantis McClendon Marshall. Her father was an investment banker. Stevenson earned her bachelor's degree at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania in 1933. She graduated from Yale University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater in 1937. She resides in Warrenton, Oregon.

Stevenson's merit as a writer was noticed early in her career when she won her first award in 1938- the John Golden Fellowship in playwriting, an award that was shared in the same year with playwright Tennessee Williams. Subsequently, she won the following awards: Friends of American Writers Award for Weep No More (the novel), 1957, and the National Arts of the Theatre Award, for "Weep No More," (the play from which the novel was adapted) 1953; the International Bicentennial Playwriting Prize for "The Third President", 1976; the Preston Jones Fellowship for "Sarah Ann" (later titled "Time out of Mind"), 1983; and the Charles Erskine Scott Wood Retrospective Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Oregon Institute of Literary Arts, 1990.

It may be of interest to some researchers that Stevenson used several pen names: Janet Lewis, Clare Thorne, Janet Holmes, and Jane Marsh. Before her marriage she used her maiden name, Janet Marshall.

Stevenson met her first husband, playwright and screenwriter, Philip Stevenson, while both were working for a summer theatre in Surry, Maine. She was working in costumes and Philip, in publicity. The couple collaborated on several plays, including "Counterattack," which was produced on Broadway in 1944. It was later turned into a successful motion picture of the same name. She and Philip had two sons, Joseph and Edward. They were divorced in 1964.

The author's teaching career began at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, as Lecturer in Theater from 1951 to 1953. She moved on to Grambling College, Grambling, Louisiana as assistant professor of English from 1966 to 1967; and then to Portland State University, Portland, Oregon as Lecturer in 1968. Of particular interest to the researcher will be the papers documenting her subsequent firing from the University of Southern California. Stevenson's contract was not renewed because of her alleged association with communist party members. Her then husband, Philip, was a blacklisted Hollywood writer. The university used a defense of "academic freedom" to justify their right not to renew Stevenson's contract. She had refused to sign an "oath of loyalty" (as described by one newspaper columnist) when she was hired, and refused again two years later, arguing that her right of association was an element of academic freedom. She never divulged her contacts and continued to write under her name, Janet Stevenson. Philip Stevenson used the pen name, Lars Lawrence, to publish his novels and screenplays. He died while traveling in the Soviet Union in 1965 at age 69. Stevenson married her second husband, Benson Rotstein, an educator, later that same year.

In 1970, Janet's husband Benson Rotstein's contract was not renewed by the Astoria [Oregon] School Board because of his involvement in the peace movement and his use of controversial articles and books in his psychology classes. He appealed to the American Association of University Professors, and their decision was still pending when he died in a boating accident later in the year.

In 1986, in her mid-70's Stevenson was elected Mayor of Hammond, Oregon, a small town near the mouth of the Columbia, where Lewis and Clarke landed when they retreated from the Washington side of the great river.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Janet Stevenson Papers contain many published and unpublished manuscripts. The nonfiction articles include pieces on the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the 1950s; civil rights issues; and woman's rights issues. These articles appeared in publications such as: American Heritage and Atlantic Monthly. There are also numerous pieces of correspondence with her publishers and literary agent. A journal/letter that was written to friends and recounts her six-month sea odyssey became the subject of her critically acclaimed novel, Woman Aboard. Galley proofs from her published works are in this collection, and research documents for several biographies including: African American opera singer Marion Anderson, actress and native of England Frances Anne Kemble, naturalist and bird artist John James Audubon; and Robert W. Kenny, California State Senator and state Attorney General and defense attorney for some of the "Hollywood 10."

Important in the Correspondence Series is information concerning the dismissal of Stevenson from the faculty of the University of Southern California in 1952, for alleged connections with the communist party. Also included are letters from her New York City literary agent, Berthold Fles, and many of her publishers. She had a long professional relationship with many of them. There are also personal letters to her mother, Mrs. John Marshall, and her ex-husband, Philip Stevenson and their two sons, that describe Stevenson's world tour in 1961. These letters include details of May Day in Moscow at Red Square.

The Literary Manuscripts Series is comprised of book-length manuscripts, plays, short stories, radio scripts, teleplays, screenplays, speeches, political literary criticism, articles, and essays. This series also includes any research material related to the manuscripts. For example, in 1980 the book The Undiminished Man was published. This biography is about the political life of California attorney, state senator and attorney general Robert W. Kenny. He was an influential liberal that championed the rights of several of the "Hollywood 10" before the Thomas Die Committee from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This research includes audio recordings from interviews with Kenny; some of Kenny's personal letters, photographs, and copies of his own unpublished biography; and correspondence with Stevenson. Two additional libraries contain portions of the Kenny collection. They are: the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, and University of California Bancroft Library. Other published works that include interesting research materials are: An American Family, The Ardent Years, Departure, Marian Anderson, and The Montgomery Bus Boycott. It is important to note the manuscript Right Ascension was never published but was excerpted from the published book, Departure. Additional research material for the latter can be found filed with research material for Right Ascension.

Three of Stevenson's produced plays are within this series. "Counter Attack," produced on Broadway in 1944, and later turned into a successful motion picture film. "Declaration," a play well received and reviewed in Southern California and produced by the Actors Lab. "The Third President," a rewrite of "Declaration," and produced by Southern Players, Laboratory Theatre, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1976.

Stevenson wrote under several pen names and seemed to use them when writing outside of her usual topics of biography, non-fiction and historical fiction. The names are: Janet Marshall, Janet Lewis, Clare Thorne, Allison Thorne, Jane(t) Holmes, and Jane Marsh. As near as can be ascertained, Jane Marsh was used exclusively for her poetry.

Series V: Magazines/Articles includes published works from as early as 1933, when Stevenson was an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College to a political/environmental article published in 1984. It also includes published pieces in Life Story, True Confessions, and The Woman. These are the actual magazines and newsletters, not copies or tear sheets. Some of Stevenson's student work can be viewed in Series VI: College Materials. This includes original plays, a costume project that includes her original watercolor designs, and a piece of interest to the literary researcher titled, "The Order of the Canterbury Tales," complete with a diagram of the order.

As a septuagenarian, Stevenson successfully ran for mayor of Hammond, Oregon and became involved with Home Rule issues and the environmental impact studies concerning the Columbia River estuary near the town. Information pertaining to these items can be found in Series VII. Also included in this series is information on the firing of her second husband, Benson Rotstein, from the Astoria [Oregon] High School faculty.

The Miscellaneous series includes original, mostly undated, unpublished poetry by "Jane Marsh," odd reviews and publicity for some books, and additional information concerning Stevenson's firing from the University of Southern California in 1952. The Audio Recordings series has extensive interviews with Robert W. Kenny and interviews from radio shows when Stevenson and her first husband, Philip Stevenson, were guests.

The final two series contain a libretto with research information on the opera, "Lysistrata," produced in 1984, and a closed manuscript titled, The Last Town in Oregon. This box is closed to the researcher until the event of the author's death.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Anti-communist movements--California
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Civil rights--United States
  • College teachers--Dismissal of--California
  • Dramatists, American--20th century
  • Environmental protection--Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.)
  • May Day (Labor holiday)--Russia (Federation)
  • Mayors--Oregon--Hammond
  • Political activists--United States
  • Publishers and publishing--Correspondence
  • Women's rights--United States

Personal Names

  • Anderson, Marian, 1897-1993
  • Audubon, John James, 1785-1851
  • Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893
  • Kenny, Robert W. (Robert Walker), 1901-1976
  • Rotstein, Benson, d. 1970
  • Stevenson, Janet, 1913-2009
  • Stevenson, Philip, 1896-1965

Family Names

  • Kenney family

Geographical Names

  • Astoria (Or.)
  • Hammond (Or.)
  • Oceania--Description and travel

Form or Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Galley proofs
  • Manuscripts for publication
  • Sound recordings
  • Tear sheets