Meridel Le Sueur Biography

Meridel Le Sueur (February 22, 1900, Murray, IA – November 14, 1996, Hudson, WI) was an American writer associated with the proletarian movement of the 1930s and 1940s. Born as Meridel Wharton, she assumed the name of her mother's second husband, Arthur Le Sueur, former Socialist mayor of Minot, North Dakota.

Le Sueur was born into a family of social and political activists. Her grandfather was a supporter of the Protestant fundamentalist temperance movement. Le Sueur was heavily influenced by poems and stories that she heard from Native American women. She dropped out of high school and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art. She worked in Hollywood as an actress, stuntwoman, writer and journalist. She wrote for liberal newspapers about unemployment, migrant workers, and the Native American fight for autonomy.

Like other writers of the period such as John Steinbeck, Nelson Algren and Jack Conroy, Le Sueur wrote about the struggles of the working class during the Great Depression. She published articles in the New Masses and The American Mercury.

Her best known books are North Star Country (1945), a people’s history of Minnesota, and the novel The Girl, which was written in the 1930s but not published until 1978. In the 1950s, Le Sueur was blacklisted as a communist, but her reputation was revived in the 1970s, when she was hailed as a proto-feminist for her writings in support of women’s rights. She also wrote on Goddess spirituality in a poetry volume titled Rites of Ancient Ripening, which was illustrated by her daughter. In her later years, Le Sueur lived in St. Paul, MN, and wrote popular children’s biographies, most notably Nancy Hanks of Wilderness Road.

An occasional actor in films, she turned to the writing of children's books, notably, The Story of Davy Crockett and The Story of Johnny Appleseed. She was blacklisted during the 1950s for her membership in the Communist Party. Le Sueur was active in a variety of antiwar and left-wing causes and is commemorated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the Meridel Le Sueur building in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.