01 July 2016

Sylvia Plath and The Bradford, Part 1: 1947-1948

On a day in March, I visited Wellesley High School to look through old copies of the school newspaper, The Bradford. Sylvia Plath attended the school under its former name: Gamaliel Bradford Senior High. Also in its former location as the old school was razed a few years back. As a last minute decision, according to her diary, Plath decided to try out for The Bradford and was accepted to join the staff of the school newspaper. For the next three years, Plath was a contributor in many ways to the school paper, ultimately becoming its co-editor for her senior year, 1949-1950.

The Bradford was then published six times a year. Usually around late October, right before Christmas, and then early February, late March, late April, and early June in time for graduation. Working through this archive proved very fascinating. Much of the paper is like the crummy paper in mass market paperbacks: its acidity eating it away to the point where it is very brittle and crumbly.

This is the first in a series of three blog posts on Plath and The Bradford. One for each year she was at the school and at work on the newspaper.

This research was prompted by an omission. In her fascinating and insightful high school scrapbook, now held by the Lilly Library, Plath attached a copy of the 27 October 1949 issue of The Bradford. However, in working with the scrapbook in March 2015, I noticed the issue was missing and did not appear to be elsewhere in the collection. The Lilly has an oversize box of Bradford's and Smith College has some, too. But this first issue as co-editor, published on her birthday no less, is not among them. (That I could find. Admittedly, I might have missed it or it might have been removed for some legitimate reason and/or misfiled somewhere.)

Below is a list of those newspapers which were published during Plath's first year at high school. Here I describe the known contributions Plath made to The Bradford from the fall of 1947 to spring of 1948, as well as the instances where she was mentioned. The list of contributors for each issue appeared on page 2. If Plath's name appeared, I have listed the department and/or role. There are instances where Plath's name was not listed, which we can take to mean she contributed no content or was accidentally left off (though that seems doubtful).

General observations that will apply to the entire series of posts.The departments typically were Features, News, Business, Sports, Typing, and Art. Each newspaper, excepting April 1949, was a four pages long and in broadsheet format. The full extent of Plath's contributions may be unknowable as bylines were not used consistently. Certainly during her co-editorship in the 1949-1950 academic year she would have done did a decent amount of writing and revision.

30 October 1947
"Introducin'", no byline. In this article, Plath contributes a profile of a new teacher at the high school, Mr. Coletta. There are other teachers profiled but it is unclear if Plath wrote about them or not. In her diary (24 July 1947-25 March 1948) Plath writes on 2 October 1947 about joining the newspaper. In the entry she writes about the assignment about the new school art teacher, Mr. Coletta. This contribution has not been acknowledged or attributed previously in any bibliography.

Mentioned on page 2 as member of Bradford staff in Features department.

19 December 1947
Mentioned on page 2 as member of Bradford staff in Features department.

6 February 1948
"City Streets" and "Miss Palmer's Treasures", both with bylines. The poem "City Streets" is twelve-lines and describes a dirty city scene; a very dour poem. Plath would go on to include a typed copy of the poem in a letter to her German pen pal Hans-Joachim Neupert the following year. "Miss Palmer's Treasures" is a book review Treasures by Dora E. Palmer and Dorothy Nell Knolle, the third book in their Adventures in Reading series. The book features a collection of poems, short stories and excerpts from well-known classics. These contributions have not been acknowledged or attributed previously in any bibliography.

Mentioned on page 2 as member of Bradford staff in Features department.

19 March 1948
Mentioned on page 2 as member of Bradford staff in Features department and possibly on page 4 in "Bradford Babble", a gossip column: "Sylvia likes Tom".

26 April 1948 "The Atomic Threat" with byline. A feature article comprising nearly the entire fourth column on page 1. This impressive article states firm opinions on the insanity of atomic warfare. In the article Plath writes with hope that "It has been suggested that an International Atomic Development Authority be established to make sure that atomic energy is used solely for peaceful, commercial purposes." Plath in the article seems to favor the idea of creating a world government. Writing this piece likely lead into Plath's later "Youth's Plea for World Peace", co-written with Perry Norton, published in the Christian Science Monitor and, it could be argued, her poem "Bitter Strawberries" published also by the Monitor.

Mentioned on page 2 as member of Bradford staff in Features department.

2 June 1948
SP does not appear at all.

So...the world of Sylvia Plath's contributions to periodicals has increased a little bit, no? Next time we will look at Sylvia Plath's junior year in high school. It is an understatement to say that this was the most interesting year for Plath and The Bradford.

The first pages of each of the issues:

30 October 1947
19 December 1947
6 February 1948
19 March 1948
26 April 1948
2 June 1948

1 comment :

boston12855 said...

What a treasure-trove! Thank you for such relentless digging, Peter! As a former writer for The Bradford, this brought back a lot of memories. Given the fact that Sylvia graduated 23 years before I did, my Bradford music review of the Moody Blues "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" is written in a very different time! While SP is writing about creating a world government, I wrote about Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. We are the product of our times.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.