Ridge, Lola (1873–1941)

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Ridge, Lola (1873–1941)

Irish-born American poet. Name variations: Rosa Delores Ridge. Born Rose Emily Ridge on December 12, 1873 (some sources cite 1883), in Dublin, Ireland; died in Brooklyn, New York, on May 19, 1941; daughter of Joseph Henry Ridge and Emma (Reilly) Ridge; attended Trinity College; studied art under Julian Ashton at the Academie Julienne; married David Lawson, on October 22, 1919; no children.

Selected writings:

The Ghetto (1918); Sun-Up and Other Poems (1920); Red Flag and Other Poems (1927); Firehead (1929); Dance of Fire (1935).

Lola Ridge led an eclectic life from her birth in Ireland in 1873 (some sources follow her lead and put it in 1883) until her death in Brooklyn in 1941. Christened Rose Emily, she preferred to be called Rosa Delores but wrote as Lola Ridge. While still a child she moved with her mother to New Zealand and later to Sydney, Australia. She attended Trinity College in Australia and later studied art under Julian Ashton at the Academie Julienne. Although she initially directed herself toward a career as an artist, she soon changed course and became a poet.

In the spring of 1907, after her mother's death, Ridge immigrated to America. Settling in New York, she supported herself through a variety of professions ranging from factory worker to illustrator to model and author. Ridge soon found her way to Greenwich Village, and focused her energy on writing poetry. In 1908, she published in San Francisco's Overland Monthly and also contributed to Mother Earth, published by Emma Goldman . It was in 1918, however, that she received critical acclaim, when her poem "The Ghetto" appeared in the New Republic. Although she herself was not Jewish, Ridge drew on her own immigrant status to identify with the plight of Jewish immigrants in America. "The Ghetto" was the title poem of her first volume of poetry released that same year. Praise came quickly from such established poets as Stephen Vincent Benét, Horace Gregory and Marya Zaturenska .

Ridge's poetic subjects tended toward the far left of the political spectrum, and she dedicated herself and her work to radical causes. This leaning comes through in Sun-Up and Other Poems (1920) and Red Flag and Other Poems (1927), in which she offered encomiums to left-leaning heroes as varied as the Roman slave Spartacus and the triumphant Bolsheviks. After the First World War, she revived the magazine Others, while also serving as an editor ofBroom and contributing to The Left and New Masses. Although much of her work appeared in these radical magazines, she also published in traditional magazines such as Harriet Monroe 's Poetry and the Saturday Review of Literature.

Ridge was among those leftist poets and writers, including Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay , and John Dos Passos, who conducted demonstrations on behalf of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the Italian anarchists sentenced to death (many believed framed) in 1921 for murder in the course of a robbery. After Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927, Ridge wrote Firehead (1929), in which she used the subject of the crucifixion of Jesus to allude to the martyrdom of the pair. Her most successful poem, "Three Men Die," from her last volume, Dance of Fire (1935), likewise linked the deaths of the two men to Christ's crucifixion.

Ridge was married on October 22, 1919, to David Lawson. She spent a great deal of her adult life in fragile health, and contracted pulmonary tuberculosis in 1929. Praised by Hildegarde Flanner for her "tense and vigorous poetic thinking," Ridge was recognized on a number of occasions for her artistic and skillfully written work. She won Poetry magazine's Guarantor's Prize (1923), the Shelly Memorial Award in two consecutive years (1934 and 1935), and a Guggenheim fellowship (1935). She died at her home in Brooklyn on May 19, 1941. That same year, Samuel A. DeWitt established the Lola Ridge Memorial Award, which was presented in her memory until 1950.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland