Page, (Dorothy) Myra

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PAGE, (Dorothy) Myra

Born Dorothy Gary, circa 1899, Newport News, Virginia; died 1993, Yonkers, New York

Also wrote under: Dorothy Page Gary, Dorothy Markey, Dorothy Myra Page

Daughter of Benjamin R. and Willie Barham Gray; married John Markey

(Dorothy) Myra Page's interest in writing was explicitly tied to her sense of art as social commentary. Page's earliest memories are of accompanying her doctor father in his carriage as he made rounds. It was here that Page first recognized the severe extremes of class and race characterizing her town. When Page was told that her brother, not she, would be encouraged to pursue a career in medicine, her sense of social inequity deepened. Writing became her vehicle for social investigation and self-expression.

Page published her first poem at age nine in the Richmond Times and wrote fiction throughout high school. In 1918, she graduated from Westhampton College in Richmond, where she edited the yearbook and won an award for her short story, "Schuman's Why." After an unsatisfying year teaching literature and history in a local junior high school, Page went to Columbia University. She received her Master's degree in political science, writing a thesis on yellow journalism. During the months in New York City, Page also became familiar with the goals of the trade union movement and revolutionary socialism.

Page returned to Virginia as an industrial secretary for the YWCA. Her job was to organize women working in department stores and silk mills into cultural and educational clubs to prepare them for unionization, but Page became disenchanted with the conservative attitude of the local YWCA leadership. She began to work with the Amalgamated Clothingmakers Union in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Chicago. Her writing, primarily as a journalist covering labor issues, continued sporadically during this period.

In the late 1920s, Page received a teaching fellowship at the University of Minnesota. While in Minnesota she worked with the Minnesota Federation of Labor and the Farmers' Labor Party and married another graduate student. Page earned her Ph.D. in 1928, majoring in sociology and minoring in economics and psychology. Her dissertation was published as Southern Cotton Mills and Labor in 1929. Although she taught briefly at Wheaton College, most of Page's time was given to her political work and her writing. She was a contributor to the Nation, New Masses, New Pioneer, and Labor Age and a member of the Revolutionary Writers' Federation.

Gathering Storm (1932) is a fictional dramatization of several of the most significant events in the history of the American labor movement. The novel begins with an aging woman telling her spirited granddaughter about how the North Carolina hill people originally came to work in the cotton mills, and then traces the various characters through their involvement in and impressions of the 1910 shirtwaist makers' strike in New York City, the Russian Revolution, the political repression that accompanied patriotic zeal after World War I, the political debate between the Socialist Party and the IWW, the Chicago meatpackers' strike, and the formulation of an American Communist Party. The novel culminates with the cotton mill workers' strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, in 1929. Although heavily didactic, Gathering Storm is interesting because of Page's attempts to make the problems of both women and black workers central to her discussion of the events and their possible resolution.

In the early 1930s Page went to Europe to study and write about teachers' unions, and went from there to the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union Page worked as a journalist and lived in a thriving artists' community. Soviet Main Street (1933) describes the changes which occur in Poldolsk, a small factory town outside of Moscow, as the residents adjust to the new life made possible by the revolution. Moscow Yankee (1935, reissued 1995), a fictionalization of Page's impressions of life in postrevolutionary Russia, is especially memorable for its portrayal of the personal dimensions of the conversion to Communism, most significantly the evolution of sexual relationships in a changing political climate.

With Sun in Our Blood (1950) is a fictionalized biography of Dolly Hawkins, the daughter, wife, and mother of coal miners in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. Page's admirable blend of local color realism, lyrical, often ballad-like descriptions, and astute social commentary make the novel one of lasting significance.

Blacklisted during the repressive literary and political climate of the 1950s, Page adopted her husband's name when she couldn't get work published under her own. As Dorothy Markey, she wrote two biographies of American scientists for adolescent readers: The Little Giant of Schenectady (1956), a biography of Charles Steinmetz, and Explorer of Sound (1964), a biography of Michael Pupin.

Other Works:

It Happened on May First (1940). "The March on Chumley Hollow," 100 Non-Royalty Plays (edited by W. Konzlenko, 1941). With Sun in Our Blood (1950; reprinted as Daughter of the Hills: A Woman's Part in the Coal Miners' Struggle, 1977, 1986). Explorer of Sound (1964).

Bibliography:

Blake, F., The Strike in the American Novel (1972). Chestnut, S., The Difference Within: Southern Proletarian Writers Olive Dargan, Grace Lumpkin, and Myra Page (dissertation, 1994). Hill, V., "Strategy and Breadth: The Socialist-Feminist in American Fiction" (Dissertation, 1979). Rideout, W., The Radical Novel in the United States, 1900-1954 (1956).

Other references:

In These Times (May 1978). Mountain Heritage (May 1978). Social Research (1971). Westchester Gannet (23 Jan. 1978).

—VICKI LYNN HILL

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