Thursday, January 12, 2012

Muriel Strode-Lieberman (1875–1964)

Muriel Strode-Lieberman (1875–1964)
Muriel Strode-Lieberman (1875–1964)
Photo credit: Library of Congress/Arnold Genthe,
c.1906–1925 {mod. Terri Guillemets, imikimi}
The author I’m currently reading is Muriel Strode-Lieberman. What a strong, gutsy woman! Her writing is down-to-earth and celestial at the same time; she seems humble in spirit and yet fiercely, fearlessly ambitious. A few of her poems are blushingly soul-sensual and nature-erotic; many are spiritual and motivating; there are poetic positive affirmations; several take us along on her journey of self-discovery; and a handful are downright trippy.

There isn’t much information about her online, but I’ve pieced together this brief biography from about twenty-five sources. [Update, January 4th 2017: I am in contact with Muriel’s family and hope to provide further information soon.] She was born Muriel Strode, 1875, in Bernadotte Township, Illinois to a physician and naturalist father, William Smith Strode (b. 1848), and mother Amelia Steele Strode (b. 1849) who died young, at age 39. William had also been a teacher and penmanship expert. A couple of years after Amelia passed away, William married Julia Brown, a periodicals writer, when Muriel was 15. The 1880 census lists 5-year-old Muriel as “Muray,” so I don’t know if that was her nickname or perhaps a typo. Her siblings, all Illinois-born were:

  • Winifred Strode Morrison (b. 1872), who like her mother, died young, somewhere between the ages of 29 and 37. Despite the young passing, she had seven children, one of whom was named Muriel Marie. Winifred lived in Illinois and South Dakota.
  • Walter Lucien Strode (b. 1877), a grocery salesman who also died young, about age 40. He was married with one child and passed away in Illinois.
  • John William Strode (b. 1884), a timekeeper who studied mining in South Dakota then moved to Arizona in 1907. After serving in the military, he served two governors as executive secretary, including Arizona’s first governor, George W. P. Hunt. Later, J. W. was editor of the Miami (Arizona) Silver Belt and president of the Arizona Democratic Association. He passed away in 1957 in Tucson.
  • Catherine Joane Brown Strode (b. 1895), half-sister, graduated young, studied art in Chicago, and moved to California at age 19. She became an established artist using the pseudonym Joane Cromwell and remained in California until her death in 1969. She once traded five paintings for a new car and also bartered her artwork for the services of a divorce lawyer and a chiropractor.

Muriel Strode attended Western Illinois State Normal School and St. Mary's Academy in Clyde, Missouri. In 1908 she married Samuel David Lieberman (1875–1952), a rooming house keeper, racing bookmaker, steel merchant, and oil investor. He and Muriel had one foster child, Elinore Anne Lieberman Austin (b. 1914 Colorado, d. 2006 Tucson). The Lieberman family moved to Arizona around 1929. Muriel lived in Tanque Verde, near Tucson, until her death in 1964. She was a homesteader, which was popular in that area at the time. Her father had also gone to southern Arizona in the 1920s and passed away there in 1934.

My Little Book of Life by Muriel Strode
Before becoming a published author and poet, Muriel’s early profession was stenographer. She first published in periodicals, mostly The Open Court. The first publication I found her cited in was The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, from December 1901. Later she authored her own books: My Little Book of Prayer (1904), My Little Book of Life (1912), A Soul’s Faring (1921), and At the Roots of Grasses (1923).

She wrote her entire career under her birth name Muriel Strode, omitting the Lieberman, even though nearly everything she published was after marriage. [Update, December 29th 2016: I found her signature as shown below, on the 1934 application for her father’s veteran headstone, and it appears that she hyphenated Strode-Lieberman so I am updating her name throughout this article to include the hyphen.]

Her death certificate shows occupation of “writer” as declared by her daughter. Her wedding announcement had read a little fancier, as “authoress and business woman.” American Women (1937, ed. Durward Howes) reports occupations of author and “oil land investor” with memberships in Poetry Society of America and The League of American Pen Women. Her hobbies were a desert cactus garden, and rock and Indian collections. Political affiliation was Democrat. Other names she would have been known by were Muriel Lieberman and Mrs. Samuel D. Lieberman.

She is now, as of about 2008, most famous for a quotation that is commonly misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.” This is from a section titled “Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers,” in The Open Court, August 1903, and appears to be the only quote of hers on the Web, although most sites do still attribute Emerson. I am, however, posting quotations from her other works to The Quote Garden, beginning today. Below are two sample gems. I’ve taken the artistic license to present them in prose form rather than the original poetry because her lines were quite long and it doesn’t translate well aesthetically on‑screen.

[Update, January 17th 2017:  I found another signature — a book signed in 1943. It reads, “With kindest regards from the author, Muriel Strode. Mrs. Sam D. Lieberman. From the Ranch of the Gorgeous Sunsets, Tucson, Arizona.”]

“I was meant to be woman-the-joyous, but I carry in my heart a thousand centuries of pain. I was meant to be woman-the-radiant, but my eyes tell a world-old story.... This destruction that we permit through our own unenlightenment, this gnarled and knotted being, this life bound to its pack, is not of God. It is of you, or it is of me. God gave us time to live, but we have so distorted it that we have only time to perish.” ~Muriel Strode-Lieberman (1875–1964), “A Soul’s Faring: XII,” A Souls Faring, 1921

“I know the thrill of the grasses when the rain pours over them. I know the trembling of the leaves when the winds sweep through them. I know what the white clover felt as it held a drop of dew pressed close in its beauteousness. I know the quivering of the fragrant petals at the touch of the pollen-legged bees. I know what the stream said to the dipping willows, and what the moon said to the sweet lavender. I know what the stars said when they came stealthily down and crept fondly into the tops of the trees.” ~Muriel Strode-Lieberman (1875–1964), “Creation Songs: V,” A Souls Faring, 1921

Muriel Strode-Lieberman signature
Muriel Strode-Lieberman signature
Source: Application for headstone Wm. S. Strode, 1934