Ella Young in 1930.
26 December 1867|
County Antrim, Ireland
|Died||23 July 1956
Oceano, California, United States
|Occupation||Poet, folklorist, teacher|
|Literary movement||Irish Literary Revival|
|Notable works||Celtic Wonder Tales; The Wonder-Smith and His Son; The Tangle-Coated Horse|
Ella Young (26 December 1867 – 23 July 1956) was an Irish poet and Celtic mythologist active in the Gaelic and Celtic Revival literary movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. Born in Ireland, Young was an author of poetry and children's books. She emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1925 as a temporary visitor and lived in California. For five years, she gave speaking tours on Celtic mythology at American universities, and in 1931, she was involved in a publicized immigration controversy when she attempted to become a citizen.
Young held a chair in Irish Myth and Lore at the University of California, Berkeley for seven years. At Berkeley, she was known for her colorful and lively persona, giving lectures while wearing the purple robes of a Druid, expounding on legendary creatures such as fairies and elves, and praising the benefits of talking to trees. Her encyclopedic knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject of Celtic mythology attracted and influenced many of her friends and won her a wide audience among writers and artists in California, including poet Robinson Jeffers, philosopher Alan Watts, photographer Ansel Adams, and composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music.
Later in life, she served as the "godmother" and inspiration for the Dunites, a group of artists living in the dunes of San Luis Obispo County. She retired to the town of Oceano, where she died at the age of 88.
Early life and work in Ireland
Born in Fenagh, County Antrim, she grew up in Dublin in a Protestant family and attended the Royal University. She later received her master's degree at Trinity College, Dublin. Her interest in Theosophy led her to become an early member of the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, where she met writer Kenneth Morris. Her acquaintance with "Æ" (George William Russell) resulted in becoming one of his select group of protégés, known as the "singing birds". Russell had been her near neighbour, growing up on Grosvenor Square. Young's nationalist sentiments and her friendship with Patrick Pearse, gave her a supporting role in the Easter Rising; as a member of Cumann na mBan, she smuggled rifles and other supplies in support of Republican forces. Young's first volume of verse, titled simply Poems, was published in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, was published in 1909. She became friends with William Butler Yeats' erstwhile flame Maud Gonne, and Gonne illustrated Young's first book of stories, Celtic Wonder Tales (1910). Although Young continued to write poetry, it was for her redactions of traditional Irish legends that she became best known.
Immigration to the United States
Young first came to the United States in the 1920s to visit friends, traveling to Connecticut to meet Mary Colum (Molly) and her husband, Irish poet Padraic Colum. In 1922, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left the University of California, Berkeley. Young was hired to fill the post in 1924 and she immigrated to the United States in 1925. According to Kevin Starr Young "had been briefly detained at Ellis Island as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies." At the time, people suspected to have a mental illness were denied admission to the U.S.
While based in California, Young began speaking at various universities in 1925, first lecturing at Columbia University and then Smith College, Vassar College and Mills College. According to Norm Hammond,
Wherever she went, she was received enthusiastically, especially by the young people of America. They loved this white-haired lady with the eyes of a seer that appeared to be lighted from within. She spoke with a melodious voice; when she spoke everyone listened. She had a thin, wispy quality that made her appear as the apparition of the very spirits she described. Indeed, her skin had an almost translucent quality.
As of 1931 she had not received legal immigration status, and Charles Erskine Scott Wood advised her to go to Victoria, British Columbia and restart the process toward American citizenship. Her application for re-entry to the U.S. was declined for months on the grounds that she might become a "public charge."
In 1928, Young's book The Wonder-Smith and His Son, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff, became a Newbery Honor Book (runner-up). During the 1920s, she occasionally visited Halcyon, California, a Theosophical colony near San Luis Obispo. While living in a cabin behind John Varian's house there, Young finished writing The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales, a 1930 Newbery Honor Book. In Halcyon, her eclectic circle of friends included Ansel Adams, whom she had first met in either 1928 or 1929 in San Francisco through their mutual friend, Albert M. Bender. She traveled with Adams and his wife, Virginia, to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1929, spending time with friends and visiting artists at the Taos art colony, and staying with Mabel Dodge Luhan. In Taos, Young also visited with Georgia O'Keeffe. A photograph of Young and Virginia Adams appears in Ansel Adams's autobiography. Adams recalls that Young and fellow writer Mary Hunter Austin did not get along very well together, but that conservationist Dorothy Erskine was one of Young's good friends.
In 1932, The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was released, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Young published her autobiography, Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately in 1945. Later, she found particular affinity in the California Redwoods After battling cancer, Young was found dead in her home in Oceano on 23 July 1956. She was cremated, and in October, her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. A grave marker is located in the Santa Maria Cemetery District, Santa Maria, California. Young left the bulk of her estate to the Save-the-Redwoods League.
Writers John Matthews and Denise Sallee released an annotated anthology of Ella Young's work in 2012, entitled "At the Gates of Dawn: A Collection of Writings by Ella Young." Writer Rose Murphy released a biography of Ella Young in 2008. The South County Historical Society of San Luis Obispo County, California is active in the research and preservation of the history of the Dunites and Ella Young. An archive of her papers is currently held by the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Celtic Wonder Tales, The Wonder-Smith and His Son, and The Tangle-Coated Horse were republished in 1991 by Floris Books and Anthroposophic Press.
- Poems (1906)
- The Coming of Lugh (1909)
- Celtic Wonder Tales (1910)
- The Rose of Heaven (1920)
- The Weird of Fionavar (1922)
- The Wonder-Smith and His Son (1927)
- The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales (1929)
- To the Little Princess (1930)
- The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932)
- Marzilian (1938)
- Flowering Dusk (1945)
- Seed of the Pomegranate (1949)
- Smoke Myrrh (1950)
- Heckel, N. M. (1995). "Ella Young". The Camelot Project. University of Rochester, Robbins Library.
- Gilmore, Bob (1998). Harry Partch: A Biography. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06521-3.
- Hammond 1992, pp. 37–38.
- However, in The Maunsel Poets (2004), David Gardiner says Young attended Trinity College, Dublin, not the Royal University of Ireland. In an interview hosted by Dunes Collaborative, Gavin Arthur says Young received her master's degree at Trinity College. See Arthur, Gavin. "Arthur Talks About Ella Young". Part 5. Dunes Collaborative. Date unknown.
- Dublin City Libraries, short biography.
- She was a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) before it merged with Cumann na mBan in 1914. See Bradley & Valiulis, Gender and Sexuality in Modern Ireland (1997).
- Starr 2009, pp. 324–326.
- Hammond 2002, pp. 15–16.
- LaVarge-Baptista, Elizabeth (21 October 2005). "Celtic Language Study at Berkeley". Celtic Studies Program, University of California, Berkeley.
- Starr was State Librarian of California and history professor at the University of Southern California
- Starr 2009, pp. 54–55.
- Walsh 2009, p. 75.
- "Admit Ella Young, Barred Irish Poet". The New York Times. 14 April 1931. p. 16.
- Hammond 1992, p. 29.
- Lyman 1973, p. 65.
- Walsh 2009 says she held the position for seven years, but the Celtic Studies Program at UCB says it was ten years.
- Letter to the editor from C.E.S. Wood, The Saturday Review of Literature, 14 March 1931, p. 668, retrieved at www.unz.org 12 December 2012.
- Hammond 2002, p. 16. See Association for Library Service to Children (2009). The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal Honor Books. ALA Editions. ISBN 0-8389-3585-0.
- Adams, Ansel. "Ansel Adams Talks About Ella Young". Part 1. Dunes Collaborative.
- Lyman, W. W. "W.W. Lyman Talks About Ella Young". Part 2. Dunes Collaborative.
- Hammond 2002, pp. 14–16; Adams, Ansel. "Ansel Adams Talks About Ella Young". Part I. Dunes Collaborative. Date unknown.
- Berman, Ruth (August 1999). "The Unicorn with Silver Shoes". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Mercury Publications): 162.
- The funeral ceremony is described by W. W. Lyman in Part 2 of "W.W. Lyman Talks About Ella Young", Dunes Collaborative.
- Last Will and Testament of Ella Young, registry # 8660, County Clerk's Office, County of San Luis Obispo 
- Walsh 2009, p. 75; See also: "Ella Young, Irish mystic and rebel; from literary Dublin to the American West." Reference & Research Book News (2008); Lowery, Robert. "Irish-(North) America." Irish Literary Supplement 28.2 (2009): 28.
- Staff (4 August 2009). "Historical Society examines Halcyon and the Dunites". The Times Press Recorder. See for example: "Dunite-Halcyon Exhibits – Fall Season, August 1 – October 3, 2009". The South County Historical Society.
- Ella Young Papers, 1900–1956. California Digital Library.
- Adams, Ansel; Ruth Teiser; Catherine Harroun (1978). Conversations with Ansel Adams: An Interview conducted by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun in 1972, 1974, and 1975. Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California.
- Colum, Padraic (1931). Ella Young: An Appreciation. London: Longmans, Green & Company.
- "Consul Withholds Visa For Ella Young". The New York Times. 17 March 1931. p. 6.
- "Ella Young Dead; Poet and teacher". The New York Times. 25 July 1956. p. 29.
- Hammond, Anne (2002). Ansel Adams: Divine Performance. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09241-7.
- Hammond, Norm (1992). The Dunites. Arroyo Grande, CA: South County Historical Society. ISBN 0-9673464-1-X.
- Helbig, Alethea K. (2000). "Young, Ella". In Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf. American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present 4 (2nd ed.). Detroit: St. James Press. pp. 280–281. ISBN 1-55862-431-7.
- Jewell, Edward Alden (18 October 1925). "Elfland Sends An Ambassadress to Us". The New York Times.
- Lyman, W.W (Autumn 1973). "Ella Young: A Memoir". Éire-Ireland.
- McCoole, Sinéad (2003). No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900–1923. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-19500-7.
- Murphy, Rose (2008). Ella Young: Irish Mystic and Rebel. Dublin: The Liffey Press. ISBN 1-905785-31-3.
- Starr, Kevin (2009). Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950–1963. Oxford University Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-19-515377-4.
- Saul, George Brandon (Fall 1954). "A Stone Against Oblivion: On the Prose of Ella Young". Arizona Quarterly: 28.
- Wall, Rosalind Sharpe (1989). A Wild Coast and Lonely: Big Sur Pioneers. Wide World Publishing/Tetra. ISBN 0-933174-60-8.
- Walsh, James P. (2009). "Ella Young, Irish Mystic and Rebel: from Literary Dublin to the American West". California History (California Historical Society) 86 (2): 75.
- "Finding Aid for the Ella Young Papers, 1900–1956". 402. California Digital Library.
- Mini-bio of Ella Young
- Ella Young and Her World: Celtic Mythology, The Irish Revival and The Californian Avant-Garde, Dorothea McDowell (2015)