Louise Pound

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Louise Pound (June 30, 1872 – June 27, 1958) was a distinguished American folklorist, linguist, and college professor at the University of Nebraska.

Early life[edit]

Pound was born in Lincoln, Nebraska to Stephen Bosworth Pound and Laura Pound. Alongside her older brother, noted legal professor Roscoe Pound, and her younger sister, Olivia Pound, Pound was instructed by her mother in various disciplines including the natural sciences, ancient and modern languages, and literature.[1]

Pound studied at a preparatory school, the Latin School, in the School of Fine Arts, transitioning in 1888 to the University of Nebraska (B.B. 1892 and M.A., 1895).[1][2] Pound was an active student throughout the university. Along with her siblings and her colleague Willa Cather, she was a member of the University Union Literary Society at the University of Nebraska.[1] An orator for senior Class Day Exercises, Pound presented a speech entitled "The Apotheosis of the Common," an oration arguing the threat of prose to poetry, of the average to the individual. During her pursuit of a Masters at the University of Nebraska, Pound began to teach at least one course in Anglo-Saxon in the English Department. In November 1892, Pound, Olivia, and Cather starred in two plays as part of the Union Branch of the University Drama club: one, a farce called "The Fatal Pin"; the other, "Shakespeare Up to Date," a creative endeavor involving a plot of vengeance by Juliet (Pound), Ophelia (Olivia), and Macbeth (Cather).[1] A later production, "A Perjured Padulion," was speculated to have been written by Louise Pound, as described by the Nebraskan and the Hesperian.[1] In January 1895, just before receiving her Masters, Pound published a short story in the Nebraska State Journal, "By Homeopathic Treatment," describing an attempt at intervention for a socially conscious young woman, Matilda, by her friends, who attempt to introduce Matilda to Clementine, who believes woman's purpose is the selfless amelioration of society's evils. "By Homeopathic Treatment" was followed by "Miss Adelaide and Miss Amy" and "The Passenger from Metropolis," neither of which were published.

Pound continued her studies at the University of Chicago and the University of Heidelberg, earning her PhD. in philological studies in 1900. By then, she had authored "The Romaunt of the Rose: Additional Evidence that it is Chaucer's" (1896)--an essay on Chaucer's role in the English translation of Le roman de la rose—had read her paper "English Pronunciation in Shakespeare's Time" at a gathering of graduate students, and presented her paper "The Relation of the Finnsburg Fragment to the Finn Episode in Beowulf" at the fourth session of the Central Division of the Modern Language Association.[1] During her philological studies at the University of Chicago she also published "A List of Strong Verbs and Preterite Present Verbs in Anglo-Saxon" through the University of Chicago Press, an educational pamphlet meant to be used in her courses at the University of Nebraska. Pound completed her PhD at Heidelberg within a year, graduating magna cum laude.[1][2] Her dissertation, The Comparison of Adjectives in English in the XV and XVI Century, was supervised by Heidelberg's Professor Johannes Hoops.

Shortly after attaining her PhD, Dr. Pound became an adjunct professor of English at the University of Nebraska—where she would stay for most of her career, becoming a full professor by 1912—under department chair Dr. Lucius Sherman, who had served as both her teacher and supervisor for her Master's.[1][2] Here her work would focus on American folklore and dialect studies.


Louise Pound had an intimate relationship with Ani Königsberger, in which love letters were regularly exchanged for over half a century. They began their relationship as classmates who both loved the game of tennis leading to their intense and emotional companionship. Both Pound and Königsberger shared similar interests such as athletics and the outdoors.[3] The two would spend time together; Königsberger bringing Pound on hikes and climbs while Pound teaching Königsberger “the net game” in tennis.

Pound, focusing on her professional life in teaching and scholarship, did not continue her romance with Königsberger.[3]

Professional life[edit]

Pound was a member of many professional societies. In 1905 Dr. Pound was a champion of the Order of the Black Masque, senior women's honor society, which became a chapter of Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society in 1920. Dr. Pound became a member of Mortar Board in that year. She was president of the American Folklore Society, 1925-1927.[4] She was the first woman to serve as president of the Modern Language Association (1954–1955).[5] In 1925, with Kemp Malone and Arthur Garfield Kennedy, she founded the journal American Speech "to present information about English in America in a form appealing to general readers".[6] Pound was the Nebraska director (1906-1908) and later national vice president of the American Association of University Women from the 1930s to 1944. An athlete in her youth, Pound was inducted into the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame in 1955.

A posthumous scholarship was developed from the estates of Roscoe and Olivia Pound in Louise Pound's name. The fellowship, handled by the AAUW, awards yearly stipends to international women students.[2][7]


Louise Pound was one of the pioneers of the linguistic study of American English. The majority of her research and publications occurred pre-World War II, a time where many linguistic scholars were primarily interested in investigating British and colonial English. Pound, however, sought to examine language trends in contemporary American English, most notably in word coinage and semantics, the historical origins of American pronunciations, and mutual influences of American literature, folklore, culture, and language.[2]

Much of Pound's scholarship involved identifying trends in American language and speech. Pound created a corpus of American euphemisms for associations with death, exploring American discomfort with the reality of morbidity.[8] In addition, through investigating the etymology of trade names and word coinage, Pound ascertained that American commercial terminology had become mercurial and boundless. Such a shift in brand names was, to Pound, a clear break with the past conservatism and monotony of commercial language and demonstrated that Americans were claiming their own place with the inventiveness of language.[9] Pound also delineated multiple instances where American English deviated from standard norms in the pluralization of Latin and Greek loan words. Examples of such divergences are the use of Latin plural words as American singular words such as curricula, data, alumni, and syllabi; the creation of double plurals such as insignias and stimulis; and the creation of -s plurals from Latin singulars such as antennas, vertebras, and emporiums[10]. Pound focused much of her linguistic research upon the etymology of American slang words (e.g., "darn") as well as tracing the historical evolution of the idiosyncrasies of American pronunciation, as in the secondary nasal /n/ in Midwestern and New England English.[9]

In addition to linguistic research of American English, Pound was also a scholar of early American literature, most notably Walt Whitman.[11] It is no surprise that Pound, who defied American linguistic norms by studying contemporary American English, would write prolifically about Whitman's unorthodox language use. In writing about Whitman's influences upon his work, Pound identifies specific non-British influences and nuances to Whitman's writing such as Italian opera music; a predilection for French words and expressions involving nouns, slang, social words, and military terms; and unconventional renderings of classic bird poetry which use birds as symbols of fear, loss, and fatality as opposed to the conventional joyful and aesthetic birds metaphorically portrayed.[10]

A lifelong resident of Nebraska, Pound used the rich folklore and dialect of her region to guide much of her research. True to the characteristic form of her research, Pound seeks to chronicle the features which distinguish American from traditional British and Scottish folklore as well as qualify the traits which set Nebraska folklore apart from other regions of America. Through interviews with a diverse demographic of Nebraska residents, Pound created a corpus of Nebraska lore of snakes, caves, and weeping water. Each body of lore that Pound collected is examined through historical, cultural, and linguistic lenses.[12]

H.L. Mencken described Louise Pound as "putting the study of American English on its legs."[12] The two spent thirty years corresponding about their interests in producing research highlighting differences between American and British English, a concept which was not popular at the time.[13] One of Pound's most notable studies was her historical anthology on ballads which challenged scholastic assumptions about ballads as being primitive. Pound outlined the historical poetic nature of ballads and claiming them to be communal representations of contemporary culture which continue to evolve into perpetuity in American southwest and indigenous cultures.[14] Throughout her life, Pound composed many anthologies on the poetic and historical influences upon American ballads.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Pound and Cather residence halls at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) were named after Louise Pound and Willa Cather, with whom Pound maintained a close friendship. Some scholars argue that Louise Pound and Willa Cather's friendship intruded on the romantic. Willa Cather biographers Phyllis C. Robinson and Sharon O'Brien argue that Pound was Cather's object of desire, O'Brien citing in her Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice (1987) Cather's 1892 and 1893 letters to Pound.[16][17] The 1892 letter expresses Cather's impression of Pound, Cather's feelings of strangeness around her, an anxiety of the "customary goodbye formality," and a noted disagreement with the perceived unnaturalness in "feminine friendships."[18] James Woodress, author of Willa Cather: A Literary Life (1987), argues that no evidence exists that Pound responded to Cather's affection.[19]

Pound also maintained a distinct rivalry with Mabel Lee, a faculty member of the University of Nebraska physical education department.[1] Pound and Lee were initially cordial, yet differing perspectives on the role of athletics—Pound supported athletics as a field of competition, competition about which Lee maintained reservations—embittered their relationship.


Pound entered and won the Lincoln City Tennis Championship in 1890 and continued her tennis career competing against men for the University of Nebraska title in 1891 and 1892; winning both years.[20] At 18 years old, Louise competed and won the Women's Western Tennis Championship in 1897. Pound was not only the first and only female in school history to earn a men's varsity letter, she was also rated the top player in the country while working on her doctorate at Heidelberg University.[21] Very few times did Pound's tennis skills fall short however at the Ladies’ Western Tennis Championship held in Chicago, Illinois she was defeated playing a three-time U.S. Open singles champion, Juliette Atkinson.[3] Louise not only played tennis but also showed interest in golf, winning the state golf championship in 1916.

Pound was an all-around athlete showing interest in figure skating, earning a 100-mile cycling medal in 1906, introducing skiing to Lincoln as well as being captain of her school's basketball team. She played center in their first women's basketball game in 1898 and continued to be involved with basketball by managing the university women's basketball team.[21] Pound is also the only woman in history to be rewarded in the University of Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame.[22]

Pound continued her tennis journey by playing doubles with Carrie Neely, at the age of 43, and winning the 1915 Central Western and Western doubles championships. In 1926, at 54 years old, Pound won the Lincoln city championship, being the first women's state golf champion.[20]




  • The Southwestern Cowboy Songs and the English and Scottish Popular Ballads" (1913)
  • "Traditional Ballads in Nebraska" (1913)
  • "British and American Pronunciation: Retrospect and Prospect" (1915)
  • "New-world Analogues of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads" (1916)
  • "Word-coinage and Modern Trade-names" (1917)
  • "The Pluralization of Latin Loan-Words in Present-Day American Speech" (1919)
  • "King Cnut's Song and Ballad Origins" (1919)
  • "The 'Uniformity' of the Ballad Style" (1920)
  • "The English Ballads and the Church" (1920)
  • "Walt Whitman and the classics" (1925)
  • "Walt Whitman Neologisms" (1925)
  • "A Recent Theory of Ballad-Making" (1929)
  • "The Etymology of Stir 'prison' Again" (1931)
  • "American Euphemisms for Dying, Death, and Burial: An Anthology" (1936)
  • "Literary Anthologies and the Ballad" (1942)
  • "The Legend of the Lincoln Salt Basin" (1951)
  • "Yet another Joe Bowers" (1957)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cochran, Robert (2009). Louise Pound: Scholar, athlete, feminist pioneer. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-1546-7.
  2. ^ a b c d e Snyder Yost, Nellie (1983). "Nebraska's scholarly athlete: Louise Pound, 1872-1958" (PDF). Nebraska History. 64: 477–490 – via Nebraska History.
  3. ^ a b c Cochran, Robert (2009). Louise Pound: Scholar, Athlete, Feminist Pioneer. University of Nebraska.
  4. ^ "AFS Presidents - American Folklore Society". www.afsnet.org. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  5. ^ "The One Hundred Twenty-Six Presidents". Modern Language Association. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  6. ^ Algeo, John (2009). The Origins and Development of the English Language (6 ed.). Cengage. p. 196. ISBN 9781428231450.
  7. ^ 1938-, Krohn, Marie (2008). Louise Pound : the 19th century iconoclast who forever changed America's views on women, academics, and sports. Clearfield, Utah: American Legacy Historical Press. ISBN 0979689627. OCLC 156902273.
  8. ^ Pound, Louise (1936). "American Euphemisms for Dying, Death, and Burial: An Anthology". American Speech. 11 (3): 195–202. doi:10.2307/452239. JSTOR 452239.
  9. ^ a b Pound, Louise (1914). Blends, Their Relation to English Word Formation. Read Books.
  10. ^ a b Pound, Louise (1949). Selected Writings of Louise Pound. University of Nebraska Press.
  11. ^ Pound, Louise (1925). Walt Whitman's Neologisms. Knopf.
  12. ^ a b Pound, Louise (1959). Nebraska Folklore. Bison Books. ISBN 978-0803287884.
  13. ^ Krohn, Marie (2008). Louise Pound: The 19th Century Iconoclast who Forever Changed America's Views on Women, Academics, and Sports. American Legacy Media.
  14. ^ Pound, Louise (1921). Poetic Origins and the Ballad. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  15. ^ Pound, Louise (1922). American Ballads and Songs.
  16. ^ Robinson, Phyllis C. (1983). Willa: The Life of Willa Cather. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. pp. 58–9.
  17. ^ O'Brien, Sharon (1987). Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 6.
  18. ^ Cather, Willa (n.d.). "1892 Letter to Louise Pound". Yours, Willa Cather. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  19. ^ Woodress, James (1987). Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 85.
  20. ^ a b Pound, Louise. "The Nebraska 100". Omaha World-Herald.
  21. ^ a b "Louise Pound - No. 86 - Nebraska's Greatest Athletes". dataomaha.com. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  22. ^ "Louise Pound, 1872-1958". nebraskahistory.org. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  • "Pound, Louise." American National Biography. 17:759-760. 1999.
  • "Pound, Louise." The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. 46:538. 1963.
  • Marie Krohn, Louise Pound: the 19th century iconoclast who forever changed America's views on women, academics, and sports, Clearfield, Utah:American Legacy Historical Press, 2008.
  • Nebraska State Historical Society