Skip to main content

Mannes, Marya


Born 14 November 1904, New York, New York, died 13 September 1990

Wrote under: Marya Mannes, Sec.

Daughter of David and Clara Damrosch Mannes; married JoMielziner, 1926 (divorced); Richard Blow, 1936 (divorced); Christopher Clarkson, 1948 (divorced); children: one son

Marya Mannes spent her childhood in New York City, where she was privately educated. Along with her parents, a violinist and a pianist, the founders of the Mannes College of Music, and her brother Leopold, co-inventor of the Kodachrome process, Mannes spent many vacations in Europe; upon her graduation in 1923, she spent a year in England independently studying sculpture and writing. After returning to the U.S., Mannes worked as a playwright, editor for Vogue and Mademoiselle, and cultural commentator for the Reporter, McCall's, the New York Times, Harper's, and The New Republic. During World War II, she worked for the OSS and was based briefly in Portugal and Spain. Mannes was married and divorced three times. She had one son during her second marriage.

In her first published novel, Message from a Stranger (1948), Mannes explored the notion that the dead resume their conscious identities when the living remember and think about them. The story is narrated by poetess Olivia Baird, the leading character, who dies on the second page of the novel and yet continues to "live" in the minds of her lover, husband, and children, so that she eventually achieves self-understanding.

Mannes's first book of essays, More in Anger (1958), collected her social criticism previously published in the Reporter. Mannes observes that she is "angry with the progressive blurring of American values, the sapping of American strength, the withering of American courage." Specifically, she attacks the mass media, the advertising establishment, and the "Never-Never Land of the 1950s."

Mannes' next published work was, according to her, a "long deep look at the city I loved and hated," The New York I Know (1959). But Will It Sell? (1964) was another collection of social criticism, exploring the invasion of "the government of money" in every sector of our lives. It contains four essays that outline Mannes' opinions on the proper egalitarian relationship between men and women. She also attacks contemporary violence, pop art, and commercial television.

Mannes' second novel, They (1968), depicts the final days of a group of elderly people ostracized by the new youth-dominated culture. Less a futuristic novel than an opportunity for social criticism, They condemns modern music, art, and literature while celebrating the "lost world—the long-discredited 'values' of humanism." These values, according to the main characters, are "Discipline, Grace, and Responsibility"—all qualities that Mannes felt were missing from modern society.

Mannes's autobiography, Out of My Time (1971), charts the major events in her life as well as her thoughts on woman's role and quest for identity in a male-dominated society. The major theme is the belief in "spiritual hermaphroditism"—the notion that human beings contain both masculine and feminine qualities that must be accepted and balanced in their personalities.

Mannes's last work, Last Rights (1974), expresses her support for euthanasia and her plea for laws to ensure a dignified death for all.

In 1959, Mannes published a collection of politically satirical poems, Subverse: Rhymes for Our Times, originally published in the Reporter under the pseudonym of "Sec." The poems attack the materialism of American society, environmental pollution, television inanities, the medical establishment, politicians, and militaristic imperialism.

Mannes' writings received mixed reviews, and she assessed herself as somewhat of a misfit: "Professionally I appear to fall uneasily between the writers who succeed because they appeal to the mass audience and those who succeed because they appeal to a superior intellectual elite. The big magazines find me too special and controversial to handle, and the critical literary fraternity find me too explicit to be important." This perceptive self-assessment helps explain Mannes' minor stature among 20th-century essayists and novelists.


Reference works:



Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mannes, Marya." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . 20 Nov. 2018 <>.

"Mannes, Marya." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . (November 20, 2018).

"Mannes, Marya." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. . Retrieved November 20, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.