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For my friend Ruth Gruber, Sept 30, 1911-Nov 17, 2016

The funeral for my dear friend and longtime author Ruth Gruber will be this morning, Nov 20, 11am at B’nai Jeshurun on W 88th St in Manhattan. She died on Thursday at age 105. One of her mentors was Edward Steichen, who urged her, “Take pictures with your heart,” which she always did. Here’s an album with two pictures of her, and a few of her images. Among her hundreds of great photographs, these three are some of her most moving. Links below offer more info on Ruth’s long life and career.

 

NY Times obituary

AP obit

All my blog posts on Ruth Gruber

 

 

As Alaska Notches 56 Years Since It Became a State, a Note on Ruth Gruber’s Role in the March to Statehood

On this date in 1959 Alaska became the US’s 49th State. Til then the Interior Department had a big hand in administering the territory, though there was also local government. Spanning 1941-46, Ruth Gruber—now 104, and the most senior living member of FDR administration—worked in the Cabinet-level department, and during that time served in Alaska as Secretary Harold Ickes’ Special Representative to the region. Her work there began in Spring 1941, a strategic place to be, especially when just six months later the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor. After Hawaii, Alaska was the US’s other key Pacific outpost. She was a natural for the role in Alaska, which she got at age 29, as Harold Ickes had read her 1937 book I Went to the Soviet Arctic, a travelogue she wrote after becoming the first journalist or scholar—Westerner or Soviet, male or female—to travel in Siberia and observe the country’s population centers above the Arctic Circle. She explains how she got that earlier opportunity—after a Letter of Introduction to Soviet specialists by the mentor and Arctic explorer Viljalmur Stefanson, in her terrific memoir Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent. One role she took on in Alaska was the establishment of homesteading in the vast land, anticipating especially the appeal the offer of land to settlers could have for US troops being demobilized as WWII ended. Her efforts helped lead ultimately to statehood, not even fifteen years following war’s end. You can read much more about Ruth’s career in her 18 books, 6 of which I helped her publish, many available nowadays from Open Road Integrated Media, and in my many blog posts about her, linked to here. Here she was photographed with local people.

Holiday Reflections

Later today my wife and I will be going to visit Ruth Gruber, the pioneering female photojournalist and longtime author…

Posted by Philip Turner on Friday, 25 December 2015

Celebrating with Ruth Gruber on her 104th Birthday

The 104th birthday of my longtime author—the storied photojournalist Ruth Gruber, with whom I’ve published six books—was last Wednesday, so yesterday Kyle and I joined Ruth and her daughter Celia to celebrate the latest milestone in Ruth’s remarkable and event-filled life—from meeting Virginia Woolf in the 1930s to journeying through the Soviet Arctic later that decade to working in Alaska as a representative of the FDR administration to chronicling the voyage of the real-life Exodus ship in 1947 to being honored by the International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2012, aspects of her life I’ve chronicled several times on this blog. Photos from our birthday celebration are below, but first note that the ICP’s exhibit of Ruth’s work is now at Brooklyn College where it will be up until February 12, 2016, with an opening this Thursday, October 8. NB: Five of the six books I published w/Ruth in the 1990s and 2000s, including her two remarkable memoirs Ahead of Time and Inside of Time, as well as her book on Virginia Woolf, are available from Open Road Media.

Ruth birthday cake 2Ruth birthday cake

Appreciating Ruth Gruber’s Lifetime of Humanitarian Activism and Photojournalism, at the JCC til Feb 25

Ruth at JCC, Dec 9, 2014Kyle, Ewan, and I had a great time last night at the opening reception for an exhibit of Ruth Gruber’s photojournalism at the JCC. This is essentially the same exhibit that was mounted in 2012 at the International Center of Photography, the year that Ruth was awarded the ICP’s Infinity Award. If you’re unfamiliar with Ruth’s work, this show is a great way to begin. If you’re not in NYC to go see it, this link will lead you to many of the images. If you’re not familiar with her remarkable career, here’s a primer:

Born in 1911 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ruth was always precocious. She received her B.A. from NYU at age sixteen; an M.A. in German language and literature from the University of Wisconsin at eighteen; and at twenty was offered a fellowship to participate in an exchange program at the University of Cologne. Early in her studies there, in 1931, she was asked by a professor if she would consider reading the work of Virginia Woolf, and writing a doctoral thesis about her. I’ve imagined that Ruth’s professors must have realized they had this bright female student in their midst, a reader of English and German who could tackle the Englishwoman’s books and write about them, asking themselves when they might again have such an opportunity, especially with the inter-war years—which they turned out to be—increasingly fraught by international peril? Ruth demurred—she had not yet read Woolf’s work, she could afford to be in Cologne only one year, her parents would not let her stay longer, the work would surely take more than a year—but soon, though she hadn’t read any of Woolf’s books when the professors asked her, she said, “I’ll try.” Taping up a picture of Woolf in her room, she undertook to read all of Woolf’s books then published, pondering their meaning and the significance of Woolf’s creative enterprise.

Despite the notoriety that her youthful doctorate brought her (she was heralded in the NY Times as the “World’s Youngest Ph.D.”), the Depression was in full swing and Ruth found little work upon her return to the States. She continued traveling and trying her hand at journalism and photography. In 1935, she was delighted when the thesis on Woolf was published as a book in Germany by the Tauchnitz Press, which had a list of English-language titles, including Woolf’s The Waves. Ruth sent a copy of her thesis to Woolf in London, thus beginning a lengthy correspondence between the two women that culminated in Ruth paying a visit to Woolf at her Bloomsbury home in 1936 or ’37. For more on this period of Ruth’s life, including the meeting between the two women, you can also read my post, Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women her on this blog.

After her experiences in Germany, she won a Fulbright scholarship, which included attending a rally at which Hitler spoke, where the foreign students were seated very near him, she devoted an extended period of independent study to the examination of “women under democracy, fascism, and communism.” She became the first Western journalist to tour the Soviet Arctic, and in 1937 published her second book, I Went to the Soviet Arctic, which she parlayed in to a new career as a public lecturer. In 1940, Ruth continued her association with the peoples of the polar regions when she became a member of the FDR administration, under Interior Secretary Harold Ickes who named her his special field representative for the territory of Alaska. She is doubtless one of the Roosevelt administration’s eldest surviving staffers. She worked for the government off and on during and immediately after WWII, leaving at times to work as a foreign correspondent for the New York Post and the Herald Tribune. In 1944, Ickes assigned Ruth a mission she urged him to give her, that of escorting nearly 1,000 WWII survivors from Naples, Italy, on the Henry Gibbins, a ship that also carried wounded American troops back to the US. In 1947, she was working as a foreign correspondent when she covered the fate of the Exodus ship, and chased its thousands of stateless passengers all over the Mediterranean and central Europe the summer of that year.

To read more about Ruth Gruber’s lifetime of humanitarian activism I recommend any of the six books I published with her, five of which are currently available in new editions from Open Road Integrated Media, whose executives Jane Friedman and Philip Rappaport were also on hand at the JCC. The titles I published with Ruth are 1) Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation, Introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook; 2) Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 WWII Refugees and How They Came to America, which was adapted for a TV movie in 2000 (Foreword by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and Ruth’s niece); 3) Raquela: A Woman of Israel, winner of the Jewish Book Award in 1978 (Introduction by novelist Faye Kellerman); 4) Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent (also the title of a documentary on Ruth), Introduction by Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner; 5) Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel: My Journey from Alaska to Israel; and 6) Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman.

I have written about Ruth several times on this blog, posts that are all illustrated with photographs by Ruth or of her: 1) Ruth Gruber’s Photojournalism at Soho Photography; 2) My Friend Ruth Gruber, Pioneering Photojournalist; 3) Virginia Woolf and Ruth Gruber, Driven to Create as Women; 4) Celebrating Photojournalist & Author Ruth Gruber’s 102nd Birthday With Her; and 5) Marking Photojournalist Ruth Gruber’s 103rd Birthday. Below are photos I took at last night’s reception, and photos I’ve taken of her book jackets.

Working with Authors, in to Their 100s

Marking Photojournalist Ruth Gruber’s 103rd Birthday

As a book editor, I've had the privilege of working with dozens of talented authors. Amid all the superb writers one sub-group stands out: authors in their 80s, 90s, or even older, in their 100s. This group has included Edward Robb Ellis (1911-1998), author of A Diary of Century: Tales by American's Greatest Diarist. Here is a collection of posts Ive written about him. Another of these remarkable authors is Ruth Gruber, also born in 1911, with whom I've published six books, including her memoir Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent, also the title of a documentary about her. Ruth turned 103 this week, and is still going strong. This is a collection of posts I've written about her. Please join me in celebrating her amazing life and career.

Spurred by a 1928 Walker Evans Photo, Barbara Scheiber Publishes Her 1st Novel at Age 92

Amazing Washington Post story by Richard Leiby on 1st-time novelist Barbara Scheiber, 92 years old, who in a 1928 Walker Evans photograph saw what she and other family members believe is her father, with his mistress. From this, and much more, she’s written a novel, We’ll Go To Coney Island, published last month by Sowilo Press. Evans was from what I’ve read unabashed about photographing unsuspecting people. he famously did it on NYC subways, with a camera secreted in the folds of his coat. He noted on the print, “Couple at Coney Island, N.Y., 1928.”Walker Evans

Congratulations to my friend and longtime author of mine Dave Scheiber, and his mother Barbara. Dave, a veteran journalist, co-authored former NBA referee Bob Delaney‘s two books, the memoir Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob (2008) and Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress (2011). I edited and published the former and co-agented the latter.

In Barbara Schieber’s bio I was interested to learn she grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, “where one of her joys was writing and putting on plays with neighborhood friends. She graduated from Vassar shortly after Pearl Harbor, joining two classmates in a plan to organize local community support for the war effort. Their work led them to Clarion, Iowa, where her writing about the success of their innovative project came to the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, who invited the young women to dinner at the White House to describe their experience to President Roosevelt. She went on to write news reports and radio plays on the war’s progress for United Press Radio, and later, produced a prize-winning series of radio plays for the Jewish Theological Seminary, broadcast on NBC.”

Scheiber’s intrepidity reminds me of the same trait exhibited that decade by my author and friend Ruth Gruber, who in 1940 was working as FDR’s Interior Secretary Harold Ickes ‘special representative in Alaska. For Gruber–who had become the world’s youngest Ph. D. in 1931 at age 20 after writing the first doctoral dissertation on Virginia Woolf, and who had traveled to the Soviet Arctic in the late 1930s–one of her assignments in Alaska was to study the feasibility of the territory as a haven for American homesteaders. Later, when the FDR administration began promoting homesteading in the vast space as a serious option for Americans, Ruth was the person who answered the large volume of mail addressed to Eleanor Roosevelt about Alaska. Later, after Ickes selected Gruber to escort 1,000 WWII refugees and Holocaust survivors from Italy to the US by ship–history that Ruth covered in her book Haven, which was dramatized in a CBS miniseries in 2000, with a tie-in edition I brought out the same year–she hosted Eleanor at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY, where the refugees were housed until the war ended. Ruth lives in New York City today. At 102, I suspect she is probably the oldest surviving member of the FDR administration.

Reading Leiby’s story I was also reminded of another book about an inconstant father, The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff. Geoffrey’s brother Tobias Wolff wrote his own memoir of the same family, from his perspective, This Boy’s Life. Leiby’s story makes We’ll Go To Coney Island seem fascinating and I’m eager to read it.