Why do we care when he was married? | Guide to Daily reading 11/29/22

Louisa May Alcott born on this date in 1832.

John G. Neihardt married on this date in 1908

Daily Readings:

John Gneisenau Neihardt (January 8, 1881 – November 3, 1973) was an American writer and poet, amateur historian and ethnographer. Born at the end of the American settlement of the Plains, he became interested in the lives of those who had been a part of the European-American migration, as well as the Indigenous peoples whom they had displaced.

His best-known work is Black Elk Speaks (1932), which Neihardt presents as an extended narration of the visions of the Lakota medicine man Black Elk. It was translated into German as Ich rufe mein Volk (I Call My People) (1953). In the United States, the book was reprinted in 1961, at the beginning of an increase in non-Native interest in Native American cultures. Its widespread popularity has supported four other editions. In 2008 the State University of New York published the book in a premier, annotated edition.

That Infallible Source

I will admit, Neihardt sounds like an interesting guy.

I can see now that I grew up on the farther slope of a veritable ‘watershed of history,’ the summit of which is already crossed, and in a land where the old world lingered longest. It is gone, and, with it, all but two or three of the old-timers, white and brown, whom I have known. My mind and most of my heart are with the young, and with the strange new world that is being born in agony. But something of my heart stays yonder, for in the year of my singing about a time and a country that I loved, I note, without regret, that I have become an old-timer myself!

–John G. Neihardt at The Neihardt Center

But why do we care when he was married?

“John married Mona Martinsen Neihardt on November 29, 1908, after a six-month correspondence she initiated after reading his book of poetry, A Bundle of Myrrh. They met for the first time, sight unseen, the day before they were married.”

I see. There’s more. It will bring a tear to your eye if you’ve even a drop of sentimentality. From the Neihardt Center’s biography of him.

My Mona: A Love Story

John and Mona Neihardt have one of the greatest love stories in the history of American Letters.

Mona Martinsen Neihardt (1884-1958) was a noted sculptress and student of renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. From a wealthy family, as a child she attended private schools in New York and studied voice and violin in Germany. At the age of 18, she began taking sculpture lessons from New York artist Frank Edwin Elwell, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, before studying with Rodin for three years in Paris.

In 1907, Mona returned from Paris to New York and read A Bundle of Myrrh, a book of lyric poems by John, given to her by her mother. She was so impressed she wrote to the poet, initiating a six-month period of fevered correspondence that ultimately included a marriage proposal.

Mona arrived on train No. 112 from New York at Union Station in Omaha, Nebraska, on November 28, 1908, meeting John in person for the first time. He had a marriage license in his pocket, and they were married the next day with his mother Alice as a witness.

“A stately young woman of more than average height stepped gracefully through the coach door. She wore a velvet cape and her hat of like material was almost ample enough to serve as an umbrella, I thought. I recall that I felt a momentary twinge of embarrassment. She, placing her hand upon the gallantly offered arm of the brakeman, anxiously scanned the crowd a moment. Then, with a joyous shout of recognition, she shouldered her way to me, crying ‘John! John!’”  (Patterns and Coincidences)

They were very happily married for nearly 50 years, until Mona’s untimely passing in April 1958 after she sustained a head injury in a car accident. John said in an interview later in life that he was more in love with her on the day she died than the day they were married. Whenever he spoke of her, she was “my Mona.”

“Neihardt relied on his wife throughout his career, trusting her judgment as he trusted no-one else’s about his poetry and prose, about the very subjects that he tackled.”

3 thoughts on “Why do we care when he was married? | Guide to Daily reading 11/29/22”

  1. What an interesting couple. I read a bit more of Mona’s biography on the Neihardt website and she had quite a remarkable story. She began her art journey, that ultimately landed her in the studio of the most highly acclaimed sculptor of the time, with a mix of dough!

    At 18, though prepared to attend Bryn Mawr, Mona found a new interest in art. Amusing herself down in the kitchen of the New York house, she one day modeled a head of her brother Ottocar with dough the cook had mixed for bread. Her mother was struck by the excellence of the likeness and arranged for Mona to study sculpture with Frank Edwin Elwell, then Curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Mona Martinsen Neihardt

    1. Fascinating. And quite bold of her to write him, but then I imagine working with the Curator of MMA would give one confidence. I wonder what her parents must have thought

      1. I agree, their courtship must have been scandalous for the time. I can’t imagine that her parents would have been pleased, but I am sure they were won over in time.

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