About the Author
Alfred Shivers (1929- )
Alfred S. Shivers, a faculty member at Stephen F. Austin State University since 1966, has degrees from the University of Florida and Florida State University. He has published numerous literary articles and reviews as well as a critical study of author Jessamyn West and a study of North Dakota-born Maxwell Anderson's plays.
The Life of Maxwell Anderson
James Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959) was born December 15, 1888, in Atlantic, Pennsylvania. His first three years were spent growing up on his maternal grandmother's farm in Atlantic. His family moved to Andover, Ohio, where his father worked as a railroad fireman and studied at night to become a minister. The family moved often, before coming to Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1907.
Maxwell Anderson graduated from Jamestown High School in 1908, and began attending the University of North Dakota later that year. While at UND, he was involved with the Dacotah Annual, was an active member of Ad Altiora, a literary society, and served as the assistant director of the Sock and Buskin Dramatic Society. As a way of earning money, Anderson also waited on tables and worked at the night copy desk of the Grand Forks Herald. He graduated from UND with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature on June 14, 1911.
After graduation, Anderson took a position as principal of a high school in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, where he also taught English. His contract was terminated in 1913, following pro-pacifism comments he made to his students. He enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in the fall of 1913, earning a master's degree in English literature in 1914. He was a high school English teacher in San Francisco for three years, before becoming chair of the English Department at Whittier College near Los Angeles, in 1917. He was fired at the end of his first year, for public statements he made on behalf of a student seeking conscientious objector status.
He next found work for a short time with several newspapers in San Francisco, before moving to New York to join the editorial staff of the New Republic. While in New York City, he also worked for the New York Globe and the New York World. In 1921, he was a founding member of Measure, a magazine dedicated to verse. Maxwell penned his first play, White Dessert, in 1923. The play lasted only twelve performances, but it won the attention of Laurence Stallings, a reviewer for the New York World. Stallings and Maxwell collaborated on What Price Glory? in 1924. This play was a giant success, earning both critical praise and box office success. What Price Glory? had a run of more than 430 performances and enabled Anderson to retire from journalism and devote all of his energies to playwriting.
He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1933 for Both Your Houses. He won the First Annual New York Critics Circle Award for Winterset in 1935, and for High Tor in 1936. In 1946, Columbia University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature degree. In 1954, he was honored with the Gold Medal in Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1958, on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the University of North Dakota, Anderson was conferred a Doctor of Humanities degree. Too ill to attend the ceremony, the degree was granted in absentia.
He married Margaret Haskett, a fellow classmate, on August 1, 1911, on the Haskett family farm in Bottineau, North Dakota. They had three sons, Quentin, Alan, and Terence. Margaret died on February 26, 1931. He married for a second time to Gertrude “Mab” Higger in October 1933. A daughter, Hesper, was born August 2, 1934. Gertrude died on March 21, 1953. A year later, he married Gilda Hazard. Maxwell Anderson died in Stanford, Connecticut, on February 28, 1959, two days after suffering a stroke.