Home‎ > ‎

Ruth Suckow

Ruth Suckow -- (August 6, 1892 – January 23, 1960)

Ruth Suckow was a novelist, poet, essayist, and short story writer who captured the scenery and people in Iowa's small towns and farms in her many works. Her father was a Congregational minister and the family moved around throughout her childhood. She was born in Hawarden, Iowa and lived in the following towns around the state: LeMars, Algona, Manchester, Grinnell, Earlville, and Cedar Falls.

Events for this Author

 Our Annual MeetingPublic Discussion of "A Part of the Institution"Dedicating the sculpture honoring Ruth & Ferner at the Hearst
Sara McAlpin, RSMA secretary with our special guests, Lenore & RebeccaHannah and her sculptureLenore & Rebecca share about the experience of researching, writing & performing "Just Suppose."

Ruth Suckow -- June 2017 Events

Saturday, June 10:  Annual Meeting of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association, 10 a.m. Cedar Falls Public Library

1 p.m.:  Public discussion of Suckow’s novella  A Part of the Institution, Library

3 p.m.: Installation of a Sculpture dedicated to Ferner Nuhn and Ruth Suckow Nuhn, Hearst Center.  

There will be a Reception, with light refreshments.                                          

7 p.m.:  Program: “Writing & Touring Just Suppose: The Life of Iowa Novelist Ruth Suckow,” playwright Rebecca Christian,” Hearst Center.  Rebecca will talk about researching and writing the one-woman show, and Lenore will talk about creating Ruth at two stages of her life.  

Both will speak about the 1992 experience of taking the show on tour to seven Iowa towns where Ruth lived:  Hawarden, Ft. Dodge, EarlvilleDubuqueGrinnell, Iowa City, and Cedar Falls. 

Ruth married Ferner in 1929; he was 11 years younger than Ruth. They were together for more than 30 years, until her death in 1960. Here they are in their Cedar Falls home, serving a meal.
suckow park

ruth and white cat
 Ferner met Ruth when she was living in Earlville, Iowa. Her father was pastoring there and Ruth got a little cottage and kept bees. She and Ferner began to correspond and then he drove from Cedar Falls to visit her. There is now a Ruth Suckow Park and a Library named after her in Earlville.Ferner was a writer, painter, critic, teacher, and carpenter. He built her a desk and he painted this portrait of her, holding a white cat. They both loved cats.


        Ruth Suckow (1892-1960) was an itinerant writer, a reluctant regionalist, and a realist whose description of the people, small towns, and farms of Iowa was based on her keen observation of life in the early 1900s; she tackled numerous themes affecting the lives of families and showed special insight into her female charactersHer father was a Congregational minister and the family moved around throughout her childhood. She was born in Hawarden, Iowa and lived in the following towns around the state: LeMars, Algona, Manchester, Grinnell, Earlville, and Cedar Falls. Her family summered in Colorado one year and traveled out East, to New York state and Boston.  Suckow attended college in Grinnell before going out to Boston to attend the Curry School of Expression; later, she went to the University of Denver, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She worked as a waitress in Yellowstone Park, and used all of these experiences in her writing.

Suckow studied bee-keeping as a way to support herself as a writer. Back in Iowa, she established Earlville as her home base: from 1920 to 1926 she divided her year between keeping bees in Earlville, and writing her stories in New York City. She kept 80 hives, selling her honey to Farmer’s Markets in Dubuque, and “was known ever afterward as the beekeeping author.”

She married a much younger man (Ferner Nuhn, a native of Cedar Falls) when she was in her mid-thirties and he was in his mid-twenties: they were together for over thirty years. They traveled around for a few years, going to Writers Colonies but always came back to Iowa. They spent a year living in New Mexico as well as Washington, D. C. when Nuhn worked for the Department of Agriculture. She and her husband shared a love of white cats and the pictures above show her with several cats, as well as the portrait that Nuhn painted of her.

Here is a visual chronology of her life from the Ruth Suckow website.

Links to Ruth Suckow's Wikipedia page & Suckow Website


Her Wikipedia entry.


Here is her husband's wikipedia entry, Ferner Nuhn, who was a native of Cedar Falls.

Ferner Nuhn: Ruth's husband

ruth and ferner wedding
ferner pr pic for book jacket
ferner with second wife Georgia
Ruth and Ferner, 1929 Wedding trip photoFerner Nuhn from the book jacket for his book The Wind Blew from the East (1940, Harper & Brothers).Ferner with his second wife, Georgeanna (Georgia), Ruth's cousin. Georgia helped establish the RSMA and organize Ruth's papers for the Special Collections at the University of Iowa.

Connection to Cedar Falls

After her mother died, Ruth's father remarried a woman from Cedar Falls: Ruth lived here with them from 1922-1923. Later, she married Ferner Nuhn, a young literary critic and writer who was from Cedar Falls. His father was a successful businessman here. Ruth and Ferner lived in Cedar Falls from 1931 to 1932. 

Ferner was also an artist and painted a series of paintings/portraits that he called Figures of the 30s. Subjects included: Robert Frost--poet, Charles Hearst—Iowa farmer, his wife Ruth Suckow—novelist, and Henry A. Wallace—agriculturist, author, and statesman.  To see Ferner's paintings, visit the Suckow website

Ruth did some "guest instruction," giving talks at Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), the University of Iowa, and Indiana University.

They spent two years in Washington, D. C., where Ferner worked as a writer in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, under Henry A. Wallace. He also helped Wallace with his book, Whose Constitution.

Ferner wrote for a number of publications, including the Nation; one of his articles is available online. (Ferner Nuhn, “The Farmer Learns Direct Action,” Nation 136 (March 8, 1933): 254–256.  “Like a Thick Wall”: Blocking Farm Auctions in Iowa.) 

They later returned to Cedar Falls and lived here from 1935-1940. During this time, Ferner was one of the Founding members of a group of people from the University and the Community who met monthly for a meal and a talk, given by one of the members. Sometimes called the "Town and Gown" club, or simply the Supper Club, the group continues today. They became more active in the Quakers; during World War II they were part of the Conscientious Objectors movement and a Supper Club member recalled one of the more controversial talks had been given by Ferner on that topic. 

Local historian Dorothy Grant and her husband Martin were friends with Ferner and Ruth. "Nuhn was interested in art, Dorothy writes, because his sister Marjorie was a talented artist. He founded the Cedar Falls Art League in the early 1940s and his mother, Anna, let him have a large upstairs room over the Miller Shoe store at 319 1/2 Main Street for the exhibits. This was an active organization, offering art classes for children and adults, displaying artwork in exhibits, and sponsoring receptions. Nuhn was its President for six years: Dorothy and her husband were charter members. The organization sought to encourage the showing and purchase of original paintings and other art by local and area artists. The present Hearst Center for the Arts grew out of that earlier organization. Nuhn came back to Cedar Falls to exhibit his sister Marjorie’s paintings in the old downtown high school. Marjorie was already in a nursing home, but appreciated his efforts. Dorothy remembers that Nuhn was a fine host and that he gave all of her remaining paintings to the Hearst Center, along with money for the Marjorie Nuhn Conservation Room." (Ferner Nuhn Wikipedia entry)

As health problems became more of an issue, Ruth and Ferner moved first to Arizona and finally to California. Ferner taught at Claremont College and continued to write for the Quakers. Ruth died in 1960: five years later, Ferner married Georgeanna (Georgia) Washburn Dafoe, who was a cousin of Ruth Suckow. Her husband had died a decade earlier. The following year, 1966, he and Georgia worked with a group of people to form the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA)

Ruth and Ferner are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, Iowa, next to Ruth's father, Rev. William Suckow.

List of Works

Source for the following list.


Country People. New York: Knopf, 1924.

The Odyssey of a Nice Girl. New York: Knopf, 1925.

Iowa Interiors. New York: Knopf, 1926.

The Bonney Family. New York: Knopf, 1928.

Cora. New York: Knopf, 1929.

The Kramer Girls. New York: Knopf, 1930.

Children and Older People. New York: Knopf, 1931.

The Folks. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1934.

Carry-Over. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1936.

New Hope. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1936.

Some Others and Myself. New York: Rinehart, 1952. [short stories and "A


The John Wood Case. New York: Viking, 1959.

University of Iowa Press -- Iowa City, IA

Two of Ruth Suckow's earlier books were reprinted, largely due to the efforts of the RSMA.

The Folks (reissued in 1992)

New Hope (reissued in 1998)

In addition, A Ruth Suckow Omnibus came out in 1988: this contains eleven of her short stories. 

It also includes an introductory essay by Suckow Scholar Clarence A. Andrews, a long time member of the RSMA.

Slideshare Presentations about Ruth Suckow, Ferner Nuhn, and the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA). 

Note that there are also PDFs of two of these presentations and a PPT about Ferner attached to this page.

Slideshare is a website connected to LinkedIn: people upload Powerpoint presentations which they then share online.

https://www.slideshare.net/mrsdargan/ruth-suckow-iowa-writer-of-the-1900s -- Ruth Suckow

https://www.slideshare.net/mrsdargan/ferner-nuhn-presentation-by-cherie-dargan -- Ferner Nuhn

https://www.slideshare.net/mrsdargan/the-ruth-suckow-memorial-association-rsma-2013-cherie-dargan -- the RSMA

Want to find a book by Ruth Suckow?

Try the Cedar Falls Public Library: here is a list of the books they have.

Iowa Digital Heritage Website

Then click on "People and Biographies."  

The Ruth Suckow Short Story Collection is on page 7--if you want to take a look or to direct others to these stories.  Once you see the story, scroll down and you can read the description and other information.  If you then click on the red box, by the page at the top, the story will come up and there is a "pop up" button in the right-hand corner.  If you click on that, it makes the story even bigger and easier to read or to print out.

ruths grave with books
 Ruth is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.    After twenty years, we discovered that Ferner has been buried beside Ruth without a stone.


The page on the Suckow website that describes Suckow's grave in Greenwood Cemetery, in Cedar Falls, where Ruth is buried next to her Father William Suckow, and how we solved the mystery of where her husband, Ferner, was buried. 


You can download the following three stories by Suckow, as well as her novella, "A Part of the Institution." There is also a short story written by her sister, Emma, that is available at the Suckow website.

"The Crick"

 "A Rural Community"
 "A Start in Life"
"A Part of the Institution" (Novella)
"The Soul that Sinneth," by Emma Suckow (Ruth's older sister, also a gifted writer)


You can find numerous resources on the Suckow Website, www.ruthsuckow.org

In addition, you can can also become a member of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association (RSMA) for just $15 a year. Send a check to our Treasurer Joanne Laxson, 217 Summit Street, Earlville, IA  52041 

Those wanting more information about Ruth Suckow can contact one of the following people:

Webmaster -- Cherie Dargan        

cheriedargan@gmail.com or suckowgroup@ruthsuckow.org

President and Suckow Historian--Barbara Lounsberry


Notice that there are several short stories that you can download below, as well as several power point presentations; the short one, Ruth Suckow intro ppt, gives you a brief overview of her life and work.

Last Updated Nov. 9, 2017

Cherie Dargan,
Mar 25, 2017, 9:09 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Mar 25, 2017, 9:10 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Jan 9, 2017, 6:35 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Apr 2, 2017, 7:34 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Feb 24, 2017, 10:06 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Feb 24, 2017, 10:07 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Feb 24, 2017, 10:06 AM
Cherie Dargan,
Mar 25, 2017, 9:10 AM