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Anderson, Margaret (1886-1973)  
 
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As editor of the literary and political journal The Little Review, Margaret Anderson published the work of important writers of the early twentieth century, including James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Djuna Barnes. Her three-volume autobiography chronicles not only her career but also her personal life as a woman-loving woman, while her posthumously published novel is even more revealing.

The oldest of three daughters of a middle-class businessman and a homemaker, Margaret Carolyn Anderson was born November 24, 1886 in Indianapolis, Indiana and grew up in Columbus, a smaller city some forty miles south. From an early age she showed an independent nature, frequently locking horns with her mother, whom she described as "one of those persons who gets an infinite pleasure out of making things disagreeable."

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Anderson enrolled as a piano student at Western College, a women's institution in Oxford, Ohio. She enjoyed the independence of campus life and the camaraderie of her fellow students but was, by her own admission, not a particularly diligent student, and she left after three years without earning a degree.

Anderson returned home to Indiana but longed to "escape" to Chicago, where she would be able to enjoy greater cultural opportunities. Her parents were not enthusiastic about the idea but eventually relented.

In Chicago, Anderson found a mentor in Clara Laughlin, the literary editor of Interior (later renamed the Continent) magazine. Anderson did interviews and book reviews for Interior and also picked up work writing reviews for the Chicago Evening Post. In addition, she began working at Dial magazine in 1912 and was "initiated into the secrets of the printing room--composition (monotype and linotype), proofreading, [and] make-up"--knowledge that would stand her in good stead when she went into publishing herself.

The following year Laughlin left the Continent and, on her recommendation, Anderson replaced her as literary editor. Her tenure was relatively brief. When she had been with the magazine for about a year her favorable review of Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie drew irate letters from readers and a complaint from the Continent's editor, who felt that she should have specified that the novel's content was "immoral." The incident was a harbinger of things to come: Anderson never hesitated to speak her own mind in matters literary or anything else.

Throughout her life Anderson was perpetually short of money--"I never have a cent--in any season," she wrote in her memoir My Thirty Years' War (1930)--but never lacking in confidence, ambition, or devotion to fine literature and music and the freedom of individual expression. Against all odds, she founded her own magazine, The Little Review, in 1914.

"I have a single superstition," she wrote, "that the gods are for me and that anything I want will happen if I play at it hard enough." Such was the spirit with which she undertook the project.

She sought--indeed, she wrote, "demanded"--advertisements from publishing companies to help finance the venture. She wrote articles as well as editorials herself and successfully requested contributions--for which she offered no remuneration--from figures in the literary world, most of whom she had met through her participation in the social circle of Chicago Evening Post literary editor Floyd Dell.

Although Anderson admitted the "[t]he first number [of The Little Review] betrayed nothing but [her] adolescence," she quickly made it into a publication that Jane Rule many years later called "marvelous reading not only because it contains a great deal of literary and musical history but also because of the courage, arrogance, and high joy of its author, who should be exasperating but rarely is."

In 1915 Anderson heard Emma Goldman lecture and "had just enough time to turn anarchist before the presses closed" on the third issue of The Little Review. Anderson's laudatory article about Goldman caused a rift between her and DeWitt Wing, a journalist who was, she wrote, "the only person who really 'saw' the Little Review" when the project was in its infancy, helped her organize the venture, and covered the costs of printing and office rent.

The withdrawal of Wing's support meant a fiscal crisis for the new magazine, but with characteristic confidence, Anderson declared that "nothing can stop the Little Review." To have enough money to continue its publication, Anderson gave up her apartment and pitched tents on the strand of Lake Michigan, where she, along with a staff member, one of her sisters, a cook, and the children of the latter two, lived "a North Shore gypsy life" from May until November.

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