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Genevieve Taggard Portrait

Genevieve Taggard was born in Waitsburg, Washington, where both her parents taught school and where her father was the school principal. Her parents were also active members of The Disciples of Christ, and, when Taggard was but two, they became missionaries and headed to Honolulu, Hawaii, to create and teach at a school there. The family left Hawaii in 1914, at which point Taggard enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, meanwhile joining the socialist political and literary community in the San Francisco Bay area. She graduated in 1919, having edited a Berkeley literary magazine and deepened her commitment to the radical Left. The following year she was in New York, where she edited The Measure: A Magazine of Verse, married the writer Robert Wolf, and participated in radical causes. In 1925, she edited May Days, a collection of poetry from the radical journals The Masses and The Liberator. By the end of the decade she had begun college teaching and eventually taught at Mount Holyoke, Bennington, and Sarah Lawrence. A Guggenheim year in Europe let her see Majorca, a memory that would be important when the Spanish Civil War broke out a few years later. In 1934, Taggard was divorced and married Kenneth Durant, who headed the American office of Tass, the Soviet News Agency. This placed her at the center of Left politics in the "red decade" of the 1930s. Taggard's politics would be most evident in the growing political eloquence of her poetry, notable in Calling Western Union (1936) and Long View (1942). Like many women on the Left, she combined radical politics with strong insight into women's issues. Her poetry thus took up the politics of gender, registered the human costs of the Great Depression with special eloquence, and addressed civil rights issues with great passion. Yet she also wrote The Life and Mind of Emily Dickinson (1930) and edited Circumference (1929), a collection of metaphysical verse. She died of the physical effects of hypertension.