Jessamyn West (writer)

Mary Jessamyn West (July 18, 1902 – February 23, 1984) was an American Quaker (originally from Indiana) who wrote numerous stories and novels, notably The Friendly Persuasion (1945). [1] She graduated from Fullerton High School in 1919[2] and Whittier College in 1923.[1] There she helped found the Palmer Society, in 1921.


Life and work

West was a second cousin of Richard Nixon. Growing up in the same rural Yorba Linda region as Nixon, West attended a Sunday-school class taught by Nixon's father, Frank, whom she described as "a fiery persuasive teacher." She later wrote that Frank Nixon's version of the social gospel inclined her politically toward socialism.[3]

Much of her work concerns Indiana Quakers. Although she was born in Vernon, Indiana she left the state at the age of six when her family moved to California. Asked about this in an interview, she said, "I write about Indiana because knowing little about it, I can create it." Comparing herself to other authors that created fictional universes, she remarked:

"Roth wrote The Breast. Would you ask him how he could do this since he had never been a breast? Adams wrote Watership Down. Would you ask him how he could do this since he admitted his rabbit knowledge came from a book about rabbits? ... And those hobbits!... I am a bigger risk-taker than these others. The Hoosiers can contradict me. No rabbit, hobbit, or breast has been known to speak up in reply to their exploiters."

West lived her last two decades in Napa Valley California, and died from a stroke at the age of 81.

Published works

  • The Friendly Persuasion
  • A Mirror for the Sky
  • The Witch Diggers
  • Cress Delahanty
  • Love, Death, and the Ladies' Drill Team
  • To See the Dream
  • Love Is Not What You Think
  • South of the Angels
  • A Matter of Time
  • Leafy Rivers
  • Except for Me and Thee
  • Crimson Ramblers of the World, Farewell
  • Hide and Seek
  • The Secret Look
  • The Massacre at Fall Creek
  • The Life I really Lived
  • The Woman Said Yes
  • Double Discovery
  • The State of Stony Lonesome
  • Collected Stories of Jessamyn West

Friendly Persuasion

The Friendly Persuasion (1945) was West's most famous work. When it was published, New York Times book reviewer Orville Prescott called it "as fresh and engaging, tender and touching a book as ever was called sentimental by callous wretches... There have been plenty of louder and more insistent books this year, but few as sure and mellow as The Friendly Persuasion."

The novel was adapted into the 1956 movie Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper and directed by William Wyler. It was nominated for an Academy Award as "best picture."

To See the Dream, an autobiographical book, described her experiences as the movie's script writer.

Except for Me and Thee, the sequel to The Friendly Persuasion, was adapted into a 1975 television movie, titled Friendly Persuasion, starring Richard Kiley.

In 2002 the city of Indianapolis selected The Friendly Persuasion as the One Book, One City project for the year.


  1. ^ a b "Jessamyn West (American writer) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  2. ^ list of FUHS Wall of Fame members, accessed 2010-12-16
  3. ^ West, Jessamyn. Double Discovery: A Journey New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980; p. 125

External links

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