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
West went to Whittier College in the 1920s. There she helped found the Palmer Society, in 1921.
Much of her work concerns Indiana Quakers. Although she was born in Vernon, Indiana she left the state at the age of six when her family moved to California. Asked about this in an interview, she said, "I write about Indiana because knowing little about it, I can create it." Comparing herself to other authors that created fictional universes, she remarked:
- "Roth wrote The Breast. Would you ask him how he could do this since he had never been a breast? Adams wrote Watership Down. Would you ask him how he could do this since he admitted his rabbit knowledge came from a book about rabbits? ... And those hobbits!... I am a bigger risk-taker than these others. The Hoosiers can contradict me. No rabbit, hobbit, or breast has been known to speak up in reply to their exploiters."
When The Friendly Persuasion
was published, New York Times
book reviewer Orville Prescott called it "as fresh and engaging, tender and touching a book as ever was called sentimental by callous wretches... There have been plenty of louder and more insistent books this year, but few as sure and mellow as The Friendly Persuasion.
The novel was adapted into the 1956 movie Friendly Persuasion,
starring Gary Cooper and directed by William Wyler. It was nominated for an Academy Award as "best picture." Her experiences as the movie's script writer are described in her autobiographical book To See the Dream.
West lived her last two decades in Napa Valley California, and died from a stroke at the age of 81.
In 2002 the city of Indianapolis selected The Friendly Persuasion
as the One Book, One City project for the year.Except for Me and Thee,
the sequel to The Friendly Persuasion,
was adapted into a 1975 television movie, titled Friendly Persuasion,
starring Richard Kiley.
West was a second cousin of Richard Nixon. Growing up 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