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Anna S Walling (Strunsky)

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Elias Strunsky and Anna Strunsky
Wife of William English Walling
Mother of Rosamond English Walling
Sister of Albert Strunsky; Dr. Max Strunsky; Hyman Strunsky; Rose Strunsky; Morris Maurice Strunsky and 2 others

Managed by: Eilat Gordin Levitan
Last Updated:

About Anna S Walling

Birth: Mar. 21, 1879, Russian Federation Death: 1964

Anna Strunsky Walling, author, was born in Babinotz, Russia in 1879. She emigrated to the United States in 1893, and received an A.B. degree from Stanford in 1900. In 1906 she married William English Walling, and became active in the Socialist Party. Walling spent two years (1906-1908) in Russia studying social and economic conditions. She lectured on social and literary topics, and co-authored a book with Jack London. Walling also wrote Violette of Pere Lachaise, 1915.

from the Yale University Library Archives:

Anna Strunsky Walling was born in Russia on March 21, 1879. Her parents, Elias Strunsky and Anna Horowitz (or Hourwitch) Strunsky (the daughter of Rabbi Lasser Horowitz) emigrated to the United States in 1893 with their six children: Albert, Hyman, Max, Morris, Anna, and Rose. The family first settled in New York but relocated to San Francisco, where Elias had a liquor business. The family encouraged the children in their education. Max became a respected orthopedic surgeon and Hyman a writer for The New York Call. Both Anna and Rose attended Stanford University, Anna graduating in the class of 1900.

Anna, while still a student, became active in socialist causes and joined the Socialist Labor Party. Talented, bright, with ambitions to become a writer, and seen, perhaps, as slightly exotic or bohemian, Anna moved in a circle of San Francisco writers and artists at the turn of the century. Contemporary newspapers described her as "fascinating," "the type to attract men," and "keen and alert." "The Crowd", as the circle was called, included Austin Lewis, Harry Cowell, Cameron King, Frank Strawn Hamilton, Herman Whitaker, Frederick Irons Banford, George and Carrie Sterling, Xavier Martinez, and Charmian Kittredge. It was Frank Strawn Hamilton who in December 1899 introduced Anna to Jack London while they were attending a celebration of the Paris Commune which was held in San Francisco under the auspices of the American branch of the Socialist Labor Party. Thus began a passionate friendship that would be punctuated by sharp confrontations caused by intellectual and emotional differences.

London began to frequent the warm, congenial Strunsky home where he and Anna would read and discuss literature and politics together. With a group of friends including Gelette Burgess and Jane Roulston, they read plays. Out of the Strunsky-London discussions emerged a book, a novel in the form of letters,The Kempton-Wace Letters. The book, a philosophical debate on love, posed Strunsky, as Dane Kempton defending ideal, lyric love, against the arguments of London as Herbert Wace for scientific or biological love. The letters represented much that intellectually and emotionally divided the authors.

London's daughter Joan says that "there is little doubt they fell in love early in their acquaintance, but their basic differences on which neither would compromise proved as strong as their mutual attraction." She suggests that Anna doubted the principles of Jack's philosophy, that he was too much concerned with money to be a socialist and that he was out to "beat the capitalists at their own game." Jack for his part startled Anna by questioning her ability to carry forth her life with purpose, without ng swamped by her magnificent emotional qualities. Andrew Sinclair in his Jack suggests that London would have married Anna had he had enough money to support her in the style to which he thought she was accustomed.

During the time of the collaborative effort, 1900-1902, London married his first wife, Bess Maddern, but he continued to write passionately to Anna. However, when London left California in the summer of 1902, Anna apparently broke off the romance. The Kempton-Wace Letters were published anonymously in 1903 by MacMillan. Later, when the authors were made known and London separated from Bess many people suspected that Anna Strunsky had been the cause and that London would marry her. London, in fact, had already decided to marry Charmian Kittredge. The sensational press had a field day with the scandal. Some of the papers accused London of using the scandal to inflate sales of the book.

Anna was not even in San Francisco when the scandal began to break. After the separation from London and after MacMillan had accepted the book, she had gone to New York. Here she wrote articles and revised the page proofs of the book. Gaylord Wilshire gave her a kind of social season introducing her to William Dean Howells, Norman Hapgood, and Leonard Abbott. It was during this stay that she probably met her future husband, William English Walling, who at the time was working for the University Settlement. Anna spent the summer of 1903 first in Boston to meet with the Burgesses and then journeyed to Europe with them. In London she met a "host of old Socialists" including Kropotkin.he returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1903 to begin a novel called "Windlestraws" and to write and lecture on Russian subjects. On and off she saw London to share some of her work, letters from mutual friends, and ideas about "the cause", but she was also forming a strong friendship with Cameron King. When Jack's divorce was final she wrote to her friend Katia Maryson (1904 Sep 2): "I am very glad that he has his freedom at last. He has suffered bitterly. Further I do not know… I think we do not love each other, but I may be slandering a supreme feeling in thinking so. I am too breathless from the race for happiness and do not know."

With the threat of war in the Far East Anna planned to become a war correspondent for the San Francisco Bulletin following London who was to go for the Hearst syndicate. Instead during the winter of 1905 she took herself to King's Mountain to begin a novel that she would work on for another ten years, Violette of Pere Lachaise. On returning to the city she helped establish a circle of Friends of Russian Freedom. In her letter to Maryson (1905 Mar 4) she wrote: "I have deserted Jack. There is not a thought for him, not a clinging regret." When she wrote to Maryson of London's pending marriage to Charmian Kittredge (1905 May 10) she said: "Please do not think me unhappy. not myself want Jack's love. I am quite estranged from him." Nevertheless, London remained a friend to Anna, visiting her years later. Anna, for her part, lived with her warm memories of London, and she attempted to write a biography of him many times.

Anna had been in contact with William English Walling who was spending the fall of 1905 in Europe and was planning to go to Russia to witness the expected revolution and civil war. She receiveAnna had been in contact with William English Walling who was spending the fall of 1905 in Europe and was planning to go to Russia to witness the expected revolution and civil war. She received a cablegram from him urging her to join him in his work, and in December, telling her parents that she was going to Geneva, she and Rose secretly made their way to St. Petersburg. In an intense first month in Russia, Anna traveled alone to Vilna, Minsk, and Hommel. In Hommel she interviewed General Orlov and the Jewish victims of the massacre he had orchestrated, and a passionate article resulted. Within the month she became engaged to Walling, who had previously assumed her to be engaged to Jack London.

Walling came from a very different background. His maternal grandfather, William Hayden English, had been the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1880 and an uncle served in Congress. His father, Willoughby Walling, was a physician who, through astute management of real estate, had amassed a fortune, and his mother, Rosalind English Walling, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Walling was educated at private schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and Edinburgh, Scotland, when his father served as United States counsul. In 1897 Walling graduated from the University of Chicago, then studied for a year at the Harvard Law School, and returned to Chicago to do graduate work in economics and sociology. With his independent means of support Walling was free to devote himself to his interests in the labor movement and to writing for the liberal press. He worked as a factory inspector for the state of Illinois and then became a resident of the University Settlement in New York City. It was through his immigrant friends in New York that he became interested in Russia. Once there Walling was able to meet with leading revolutionary figures including Lenin and Gorky.The proposed marriage of Anna and English was not immediately acceptable to either side of the family. There were objections based on the suddenness of the announcement, on religious grounds, and on the publicity that Anna's relationship with Jack London had generated. Nonetheless, Anna and English planned to marry in Russia after the Russian First of May. In the meantime they continued to study and write, to observe the Duma, and to visit important personalities such as Tolstoy. When the American ambassador decided he could not marry them, they left Russia to be married in France. On June 28, 1906, with Anna's sister Rose and Jean Louquet, Marx's grandson, as witnesses, Anna and English were married in a civil ceremony in Paris. Following the marriage they returned to Russia, stopping in Poland to visit Anna's cousins and in Finland. In Russia they toured the provinces and then left Rose in St. Petersburg and returned to America. With all the travel Anna noted that she was having difficulty finding time for her writing.

Anna's difficulties finding time to write and to be productive professionally would plague her for the rest of her life. The first two years of marriage were full of travel. In 1907 the Wallings went to Italy for English's health and also attended the Congress of the Second International Socialist Organization in Stuttgart. Then in July, Anna informed the family that she was pregnant. Confident that all would go well Anna and English remained in Europe, and on February 8, 1908, a daughter Rosalind was born. But, all did not go well, and five days later the baby died. Anna was crushed, blamed the nurse for carelessness, and agonized over her own responsibility for the tragedy. For many months she was despondent. Perhaps it was just her intense emotional nature or some real sense of guilt, but for the rest of her life she dwelled constantly on this bitter memory. Another tragedy, a miscarriage on February 8, 1909, led Anna to write to her in-laws: "Well, it has all ended in another death - blow to our happiness and peace of mind, in an added feeling of irrevocable loss and defeat and tragedy, in another wound that can never be healed."

In the spring of 1909 the Wallings moved their belongings to Caritas Island in Connecticut to establish their household near their friends James Graham and Rose Pastor Stokes. They then set off on yet another European trip. This was to be their last for several years, since Anna was already expecting the daughter that would be her "consolation baby" Rosamond. During the summer a scandal arose when the newspapers learned that English was being sued by a French woman, Anna Berthe Grunspan, for breach of promise. Anna steadfastly defended English, and the scandal died away.

In the years following Anna was totally immersed in her children and home. Between February, 1910, and March, 1918, Anna gave birth to four children (Rosamond, Anna, Georgia, and William Hayden English) and had one miscarriage. The family moved into at least three different houses on Long Island and in Connecticut and transported themselves nearly every summer to upstate New York, the Connecticut shore, or Nantucket. English often left Anna with the children while he traveled to visit his parents in Florida, on Socialist Party business, and later to Europe with Samuel Gompers to the International Commission on Labor Legislation. Although Anna had an agent to arrange lectures for her, she had little time for writing and speaking, and her fiery speeches at political rallies grew less frequent. In 1915 Violette of Pere Lachaise was finally published.

Serious strains appeared in the Wallings' marriage before the marriage was ten years old. Anna complained of English's temperamental outbursts and of how he embarrassed her in front of their friends and children. English considered her less than adequate in her command of the household and servants and in her care of the children. He expected her writing and speaking to earn money and criticized her lack of productivity. Politically they were also divided as Anna continued in her socialism and love for Russia, while English moved towards greater nationalism, vocal anti-Bolshevism, and involvement in the American Federation of Labor. Financial problems also caused tensions. A large house purchased in Greenwich, Connecticut, and a summer home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, needed much upkeep, the children required private school, and English having been raised with all wordly comforts was unable to economize, nor were his own occupations bringing in a steady income. English even tried moving the family to France for a year in order to save money.

Through the decade of the 1920s these tensions continued to build. As the children were ready for college it was obvious that finances were too unbalanced. The Greenwich house was put up for sale, and this seemed to signal the breaking point in the marriage. Anna suspected English of having an affair, but, though hurt, she continued to proclaim her love. English filed for a Mexican divorce in 1932, but Anna refused to recognize the end of the marriage. There were only brief reunions after that; English died alone in Amsterdam in 1936.

Perhaps it was in Anna's nature to dwell in the remembered love and her hurt and grief. Her letters, diaries, and notes replay unspoken words and scenes over and over again. Yet at the same time Anna was becoming deeply involved emotionally with Leonard Abbott. They had known each other for many years. Abbott, known as the "gentle socialist", had found himself on the opposite side from English on the important issues splitting the Socialist Party asunder: the World War, the Russian Revolution, the labor movement, and economic nationalism. Anna, though she was not outspoken, quite possibly found Abbott's positions more like her own. At the time of Anna's great emotional trial, Abbott's own wife was dying, and he was experiencing the financial difficulties common to many writers during the Depression.

With what was certainly compassion and tenderness on both sides, Anna and Leonard discussed the alternatives of free love and marriage. Leonard felt that Anna had kept him from suicide and homosexuality. But he was also able to offer support to her, encouraging her in her writing and counselling her on problems in the lives of her children. She cared for Leonard through his last illness in 1953, but although the two were together for nearly twenty years, there was never a legal marriage. Anna, for all her radical sentiments, was at heart a great romantic, and she probably could never concede that her one marriage was not the pinnacle of love that she had hoped to obtain.

Anna Strunsky Walling lived to be almost 85 (she died in 1964) but the last thirty years were lived through her children and her memories. She traveled frequently to visit a daughter and son in Europe and grieved over the children's series of marital difficulties. They too were unable to reach her ideal of love. She helped edit a memorial volume on English and continued to write her memories of her Jack London years. She returned to California on short visits to old friends and helped dedicate a California state park built around the ruins of Jack London's home. She participated in Quaker social action projects and followed the activities of the War Resisters League, the League for Mutual Aid, the American League to Abolish Capital Punishment, the League for Industrial Democracy, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which English had helped found. Living in Greenwich Village, she had contact with some young bohemian writers, but by the time she died the sensational, enthralling Anna Strunsky had been long forgotten. Perhaps Jack London was shrewd in his observation that Anna's ability to carry forth her life with purpose would be thwarted by her self-abnegating attachments to others and her emotions. Hers was a life made interesting by the people she loved rather than by the work she produced.

Family links:

 Elias Strunsky (1851 - ____)
 Anna Horowitz Strunsky (1851 - 1933)

 William English Walling (1877 - 1936)

Burial: Unknown Specifically: unknown

Created by: Researcher Record added: Oct 07, 2011 Find A Grave Memorial# 77799491

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Anna S Walling's Timeline

March 21, 1879
Age 26
Age 84