Owens, Claire Myers (1896–1983)

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Owens, Claire Myers (1896–1983)

American writer . Name variations: (pseudonym) Claire Myers Spotswood. Born Clairene Lenora Allen Myers in Denton, Texas, in 1896; died in Rochester, New York, in 1983; only daughter and one of two children of Coren Lee Myers (a schoolteacher and principal) and Susan (Allen) Myers; graduated from Temple High School, 1913; B.S. in Domestic Science, College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman's University), Denton, Texas, 1916; married first husband reporter George Wanders (divorced); married third husband H. Thurston Owens III, in 1937 (died 1969).

Selected writings:

The Unpredictable Adventure (1935); Love is Not Enough; Awakening to the Good(1958); Discovery of Self (autobiography, 1963); Zen and the Lady (1979).

Claire Myers Owens, born in 1896 and raised in Denton, Texas, as a proper Southern belle, shook loose her strict upbringing, after graduating from college with a degree in domestic science, to take up more liberal pursuits. Her early years away from home, dramatized in her later fiction, were venturesome and varied, including social work in Chicago and an Alabama mining camp and residence in a commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When she reached New York, she worked at several well-known bookshops and wrote reviews for Publishers Weekly, all the while keeping up an active social life with a variety of "beaux" selected from New York's literati. (It has been rumored that she had an affair with Thomas Wolfe, but there is nothing in her autobiography to substantiate the story.)

Her first book, The Unpredictable Adventure, was published in 1935. Labeled a fantasy

novel and subtitled "A Comedy of Woman's Independence," it parallels Owens' life and explores the double standard by which she felt women were judged. Considered bold and ahead of its time, it was banned by the New York Public Library because of its explicit treatment of female sexuality. The Los Angeles Times described it as "more instructive than most manuals about what a young girl ought to know." Owens published the book under the name Claire Myers Spotswood, supposedly to exploit her connection to Alexander Spotswood, the 18th-century governor of Virginia. Although she was commissioned to write seven more fantasy adventure books, none were forthcoming. Instead, she concentrated on magazine articles, book reviews, short stories, and novels. Most of her work dealt with women's quest for self-fulfillment through a balance of love and work. In the manuscript notes Owens submitted to the publishers of her novel Love is Not Enough, set in the Depression year 1932, she wrote: "When democracy fails to work in people's personal lives, intense suffering ensues, no less than in national life…. [E]quality of the classes in America like equality of the sexes, however difficult, is nevertheless desirable."

In 1949, in the midst of her third marriage to wealthy businessman Thurston Owens III, Owens experienced a spiritual enlightenment that changed the direction of her life and writing. In Awakening to the Good: Psychological Or Religious? (1958), one of three autobiographical studies, she describes it as the day her "Reason united with [her] Intuition and Feeling and [she] was made whole." In an effort to share her epiphany with the world, Owens undertook the study of the humanistic and transpersonal psychology of Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich, as well as the philosophy of Aldous Huxley, who became a close friend. In 1954, she met and interviewed psychologist Carl Jung and later wrote a prize-winning article about their encounter. At age 70, Owens took up Zen, eventually selling her mansion to join the Zen Center in Rochester, New York. Her last publication, Zen and the Lady (1979), traces the journey to her spiritual enlightenment through the Zen practice of meditation. At age 83, Owens said in an interview on a Rochester television show, "I am the happiest person I know." She died by her own hand in the Zen colony at Rochester, at age 87.


Harris, Miriam Kalman. "Claire Myers Spotswood Owens: From Southern Belle to Grand Amoureuse," in Southern Quarterly. Fall 1992.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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