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Yaddo Founders
Lola Ridge
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Lola Ridge: Yaddo, 1929

Lola Ridge was a guest at Yaddo from 1 June - 6 September 1929 and from 9 July - 22 October 1930. During her first visit to the writers’ colony, she completed Firehead and dedicated it "To Yaddo."

Photograph, undated

Lola Ridge,studio photograph, undated

Letter, 1929

Elizabeth Ames to Lola Ridge, signed typed letter, 27 February 1929

Elizabeth Ames served as Yaddo’s director from 1924 to 1969. She was the sister of George Foster Peabody’s adopted daughter, Marjorie Peabody Waite. Ames reached out to leaders in the literary establishment such as Alfred Kreymborg, editor of American Caravan with Lewis Mumford, who recommended artists for the Yaddo guest list.

On 27 February 1929 Ames invited Lola Ridge to Yaddo for the coming spring and offered her a room in the mansion with “fifteen or twenty windows, part of which look over to the Green Mountains of Vermont.” Ames reassured Ridge, “you can if you wish remain in [a] negligee for most of the day.” When this arrangement did not work out, Ames promised Ridge a more remote room in the mansion to give Ridge the quiet and seclusion she needed to write. Ames ended her 25 June letter to Ridge by saying, “I admire you with all my heart.”

Envelope, 1929

Click to read all of Elizabeth Ames's 25 June 1929 letter to Lola Ridge

Ames enclosed the rules of Yaddo with her letter of invitation. Quiet hours were maintained from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and loud conversations were prohibited on the premises. Every effort was made to foster a creative working environment and keep artists insulated from the demands of daily life.

Typescript, 1929

Rules of Yaddo, typescript [1929]

On 22 October 1919, Lola Ridge married David Lawson (1886-1980). He was thirteen years younger than she and eventually worked as an engineer. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he moved to the United States in 1890. Like Ridge he was active in New York radical organizations, such as the Ferrer Association, an anarchist educational society. Other friends included the novelist Evelyn Scott, poet William Rose Benét, and his older sister Laura Benét. Lawson was devoted to Ridge and acted as her de facto agent and editor until her death. While she was away at Yaddo, he looked after her needs, sending the clothes, books, and medicines she requested.

Photograph, 1925

Passport of Lola Ridge and David Lawson, 1925

Shortly after her arrival, Ridge wrote to her husband: “I have asked to change my gorgeous room and given it up—private bath and all! to go another flight up where I shall be more alone and shut in in that room shall not hear a sound.”

The food at Yaddo was too rich for Ridge. Later on June 10 she wrote: “The German chef—the best of her kind—was appal[l]ed at my turning down her gorgeous lunch—she came up to see me about it—I had an awful job explaining & it was as though I had said—“It’s no use—I can’t stand your poems!”

Ridge to Lawson, 1929Ridge to Lawson, 1929

Letters from Lola Ridge to David Lawson, 10 June 1929

Ridge suffered from chronic ill health for most of her life. Lawson wrote to Ridge on 26 June, hoping the gynergen tablets he sent helped her headaches and that her new room would be good for her. He ended his letter by noting: “Mrs. Ames probably finds it hard to understand your leaving her best room.”

In general, husbands and families of artists were left behind. Lawson tried to make plans to vacation with Ridge in the area. “Lake George is a big place,” he wrote Ridge on 12 July, “so telling me Stieglitz is there doesn’t mean anything.” Yaddo maintained a retreat at Lake George on Triuna Island to which families of guests were sometimes invited to stay. The photographer Alfred Stieglitz summered nearby. In 1929 Stieglitz’s wife, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, spent the summer in New Mexico with Beck Strand.

Lawson to Ridge, 1929Lawson to Ridge, 1929

Letters from David Lawson to Lola Ridge, 26 June and 12 July 1929

Next Page: Lola Ridge, Case Three

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