Anita Lily Pollitzer (1894 - 1975)

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Birthplace: Charleston, SC, USA
Death: Died in Charleston, SC, USA
Managed by: Michael Reid Delahunt, art teacher & lexicographer
Last Updated:

About Anita Lily Pollitzer

Anita Lily Pollitzer (1894-1975) was an American photographer and social activist, especially for women's rights. She campaigned for suffrage in 39 states before the 19th amendment became part of the US Constitution in 1920.


Her mother, Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer (born Clara Guinzburg), was the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Prague. Her father, Gustave M. Pollitzer, ran a cotton company at Beaufort. Anita Pollitzer had two sisters, Carrie (born 1881) and Mabel (born 1885) and a brother, Richard. Anita earned a BA at Columbia University in 1916, and later a master's degree in international law, again at Columbia. In December 1928, she married Elie Edson, Pete Seeger's uncle. The couple moved to New York City and lived in an apartment on West 115th St.

Source: Downloaded 2009 from Wikipedia

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Also see a bio at http://virtual.clemson.edu/caah/women/gok/GOKSC2.htm

Pollitzer may be best known for her friendship with Georgia O'Keeffe whom she met at Columbia University in 1914. They exchanged letters for 53 years. Lonely and at times depressed, O'Keeffe found in Pollitzer's exuberant letters a link to the world she had left behind. Pollitzer sent books, photographs, art supplies and the latest avant-garde magazines, shared her thoughts on writers and critics, and described plays, art exhibits and lectures she had seen. In Pollitzer she found not only a sympathetic ear but also an ardent supporter, critic and agent. O'Keeffe periodically sent Pollitzer rolls of drawings, to which she responded with unabashed enthusiasm. "It screams like a maniac & runs around like a dog chasing his tail," she exclaimed of one picture. "They've gotten past the personal stage into the big sort of emotions that are common to big people," she wrote of other works. Both women thought that the most important place to show art was at Alfred Stieglitz' gallery. Without telling her friend, Pollitzer took O'Keeffe's drawings to Stieglitz, whose now legendary response, "Finally a woman on paper," would change O'Keeffe's life. Pollitzer introduced O'Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz helping to forge one of the most significant artist relationships in the 20th century. Stieglitz showed O'Keeffe's work and later married her.

In 1950, with O'Keeffe's approval, Pollitzer began work on a biography. As the last of the letters in "Lovingly, Georgia" shows, the project came to a bad end after 18 years. (The book, edited by Clive Giboire -- who is also the editor of this volume -- was posthumously published in 1988 as "A Woman on Paper: Georgia O'Keeffe.") "I cannot approve it . . . in any way," wrote O'Keeffe. "It is a very sentimental way you like to imagine me," she observed. "It reads as if we . . . didn't understand one another at all." Yet to judge from the depth and candor of these fascinating letters, O'Keeffe's disavowal seems not only cruel but a denial of the rapport these two women so obviously shared.

Georgia O'Keefe died in 1986.

There is an Alfred Stieglitz photograph from 1918 of Anita Pollitzer and Georgia O'Keeffe.

In addition to her influence in art, Pollitzer was instrumental in the passage of the 19th Amendment and held positions of leadership in the National Woman's Party serving as National Chairman from 1945 until 1949. The organization later became the National Organization of Women (NOW).

Anita's obituary appeared in the New York Times on July 5, 1975, two days following her death in Charleston, SC.

William S. Pollitzer was a nephew of Anita. Dr. William Sprott Pollitzer (1923 - 2002) was an US anatomist. He was a professor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (from 1979-1981), and the Human Biology Council (1986-1988). The William S. Pollitzer Prize was created in honor of him.

A representative of Columbia University's registrar wrote in correspondence with Michael Delahunt in October, 2009, "Anita L. Pollitzer attended the graduate school of Arts and Sciences from Sept.1931 – Aug.1932 no degree awarded. She also attended the School of General Studies in the summer of 1928, Feb.1944 – Aug.1944, July.1949 – Jan.1950, and Sept.1950 – June 1952 no degree awarded. Anita Pollitzer was enrolled in Fine Arts, French, Public Law, History, Sociology, Writing, and English. There is also a possibility that she attended Teacher’s College"

Clive J. Giboire authored Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe and Anita Pollitzer, 1990, Touchstone. Clive Giboire has a Facebook page in 2009. Perhaps he'd share info about Elie C. Edson, and his life as Anita Pollitzer's husband.

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Anita's maternal grandfather, Aaron Guinzberg (born 1812, Prague, Bohemia, died 1873, Boston, MA) emigrated from Bohemia, later part of Czechoslovakia to the United States. His father, Anita's great-grandfather, Moses Guinzberg, was born 1776, in Prague, Bohemia, later part of Czechoslovakia.

Source: Mila Rechcigl, Ph.D., 2013.

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Anita Pollitzer's Timeline

1894
October 31, 1894
Charleston, SC, USA
1928
December 29, 1928
Age 34
Chicago, IL, USA
1975
July 3, 1975
Age 80
Charleston, SC, USA
July 7, 1975
Age 80
Chester, PA, USA