Peggy Cowley

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Marguerite Frances Baird (1890— 23 September 1970, also known as Peggy Baird, Peggy Johns, and Peggy Cowley) was an American landscape painter. She was married to poet-playwright Orrick Johns and writer Malcolm Cowley and was the lover of playwright Eugene O'Neill and poet Hart Crane.[1][2][3]

Baird was a member of the women's suffrage movement. In 1917, she invited Dorothy Day to join the National Woman's Party.[4] They were jailed for 60 days for their protests but were released after 16 days and pardoned by President Woodrow Wilson.[1]

After divorcing her first husband, Johns, she married, in 1919, Malcolm Cowley. In 1931 she moved to Mexico to obtain a divorce. While there her long friendship with poet Hart Crane turned into Crane's first and only documented heterosexual affair.[5][6] As Crane wrote to a friend about his romance with Peggy Cowley, "Rather amazing things have happened to me since Xmas. Peggy Cowley ... is mainly responsible".[7] This affair has since become a major point of interest for Crane scholars—particularly for those reading him with an eye toward his sexuality—as his engagement with heterosexual life is a determining theme in his last major poem, "The Broken Tower". Appearing at moments to be a highly symbolic affirmation of their relationship, as well as a denial of his homosexual past (the 'broken tower' can be read as a defeated phallus), the poem was written just months before Crane committed suicide by jumping off the side of a boat in 1932, while on a trip to New York City.[8]

Though their relationship had begun to deteriorate by that time (Crane said he had "misunderstood and misinterpreted Peggy's character quite badly"), Cowley was with Crane on the boat, and she figures briefly, but poignantly, in the events leading up to his death.[9][2] Almost thirty years later, she wrote about this period in an article for Venture, "The Last Days of Hart Crane."[10]

After Crane's death, Cowley married twice more and converted to Catholicism.[11] Cowley died of cancer at Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker Farm in Tivoli, New York, where Cowley had resided for ten years.[12][3]


  1. ^ Johns, Orrick (1937). Time of Our Lives. New York: Stackpole. 
  2. ^ Black, Stephen A. (2002). Eugene O'Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy. Yale University press. p. 201. ISBN 0-300-09399-3. 
  3. ^ Hart Crane, The Letters of Hart Crane, 1916-1932 (Hermitage House, 1952), page 403
  4. ^ Klejment, Anne; Roberts, Nancy L. (1996). American Catholic Pacifism. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 21–22. ISBN 0-275-94784-X. 
  5. ^ Newman, Karen; Clayton, Jay; Hirsch, Marianne (2002). Time and the Literary. Routledge. p. 241. ISBN 0-415-93960-7. 
  6. ^ Mariani, Paul. The Broken Tower. p. 377. 
  7. ^ Hart Crane, The Letters of Hart Crane, 1916-1932 (Hermitage House, 1952), page 403
  8. ^ See, for instance, Harold Bloom's introduction to Mark Simon's edition of Crane's poems, published by Liveright (2000), p. xxx.
  9. ^ See the last chapter in Mariani, as well as articles on "The Broken Tower" and Hart Crane's sexuality.
  10. ^ Vol 4., No. 1, 1961
  11. ^ Matthew Marcovic, Peggy Baird Cowley: 'Late Have I Loved Thee': Her Wayward Journey from Greenwich Village to Rome (St. Matthew Books, 2010)
  12. ^ Paul L. Mariani, Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane (W.W. Norton, 2000), page 427)

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