Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Ruth Stephan  

Pen Name: Ruth Stephan

Genre: C:ADULT Fiction History Poetry

Born: 1910 in Chicago, Illinois


Illinois Connection

Ruth Stephan [née Charlotte Ruth Walgreen] was born in Chicago, the only daughter of Charles R. Walgreen (1873-1939) and Myrtle Norton (1879-1971). She attended University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Northwestern University. In 1929, during her sophomore year at Northwestern, she married Illinois-born Justin Whitlock Dart (1907-1984), who became her father's protégé in the Walgreen Company. In 1935, the year that her father made headlines by withdrawing his niece from the University of Chicago (prompting an investigation for "reds"), she made headlines by enrolling as a graduate student in UC. In 1939, she divorced Dart and married Illinois-born artist John Stephan (1906-1995). Illinois gubernatorial candidate Adlai Stevenson acted as her attorney in the legal case over custody of two Illinois-born sons by her first marriage, Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr. (1930-2002) and Peter Walgreen Dart (1933-1988). From ca. 1937 until her death, she served on the Board of Chicago's Library of International Relations, in Chicago. In 1939 and 1940, she published poems in Chicago-based ''Poetry'' magazine. Although she lived outside of Illinois from 1941 until her death in 1974, she maintained close ties with family and friends in Chicago, often returning during the Christmas holidays. Each summer, she spent time in Hazelwood, the Walgreen estate in Dixon, Lee County.

Biographical and Professional Information

Ruth Stephan was a poet, novelist, and editor. Her poem "Identity," published in 1937 in ''Harper's'', was selected for the Moult anthology of the best poems of the year in England and the United States. From 1947 to 1950, she was poetry editor of the quarterly "The Tiger's Eye". She produced records [Spoken Anthology of American Literature, University of Arizona], two documentary films ["Zen in Ryoko-in" 1971; "Wabi" 1974]. In 1960, she established the ''Ruth Stephan Poetry Center'' at the University of Arizona [her name was removed at her request in 1972]. The circumstances of her death suggest that she took her own life.For details: John J. Stephan, "Ruth Stephan: A Tribute," YALE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY GAZETTE, vol. 50, no. 4 (April 1976), 225-233; Nancy Kuhl, ''Intimate Circles: American Women in the Arts'' (New Haven: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 2003).

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-- *Friends of Literature Prize for best book by a Chicago author, ''The Flight (1956)''