Jessamyn West


Biography of Jessamyn West

Mary Jessamyn West (July 18, 1902 – February 23, 1984) was an American Quaker (originally from Indiana) who wrote numerous stories and novels, notably The Friendly Persuasion (1945). She graduated from Fullerton Union High School in 1919 and Whittier College in 1923. There she helped found the Palmer Society, in 1921.

West was born in Vernon, Indiana, to Eldo Roy West and Grace Anna Milhous. She is a second cousin of Richard Nixon through her mother's father. Her family left the state to move to California when she was the age of six. The family included two brothers and a sister, Merle, Myron, and Clara. Growing up in the West Home in the same rural Yorba Linda region as Nixon, West attended a Sunday-school class taught by Nixon's father, Frank, whom she described as "a fiery persuasive teacher." She later wrote that Frank Nixon's version of the social gospel inclined her politically toward socialism.

She graduated Whittier College with an English degree in 1923. That year she also married Harry Maxwell McPherson, whom she had met at the college. They lived in Yorba Linda before West started graduate work at the University of California. While there, she attended Oxford University for a semester, and visited Paris. Prior to her final exams at Berkeley, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In August, 1932, she was sent to a sanitorium, and was eventually sent home because she was not expected to live. While in the hospital, she took up writing to pass her time. Slowly she began a recovery, but the writing continued.

West lived her last 24 years in Napa Valley California where her husband was a school superintendent. She died from poor health following a stroke at the age of 81.

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