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Irons, Evelyn.

ARCHIVE: Evelyn Irons Archive. 5 large slipcases.


The Evelyn Irons archive
Irons, Evelyn. Archive, 1900-2000.
An archive documenting the century-spanning life and work of award-winning female British journalist (and one-time love of Vita Sackville-West) Evelyn Irons (1900-2000), through approximately 80 manuscript and typescript articles and dispatches; two dozen notebooks; approximately 200 photographs, journalistic and personal; hundreds of clippings; related printed matter; and correspondence with Olive Rinder (an early lover) and Joy McSweeney (her nearly life-long domestic partner).
Born and raised in Scotland, Irons was educated at Somerville College, Oxford. Throughout the 1920s and '30s she was the editor of the Women's Page of the London Daily Mail, which she left in 1939 to join the staff of the London Evening Standard, under whose auspices she became a war correspondent and leading journalist. In the face of years of writing and editing "women's stories" devoted to fashion and housekeeping, her professional achievements as a war correspondent are truly staggering. They include, but are by no means limited to, her status as one of six British women war correspondents allowed to cover the war first hand; as one of the first journalists of either gender to enter Paris after the Liberation; as the first woman war correspondent to reach Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgarten after its capture; as the first journalist to obtain an exclusive interview with Frau Rudolph Hess who was being held under house arrest by the French; and as one of the first western war correspondents to enter Soviet-occupied Vienna, where she interviewed Nijinsky. At the end of the war, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Her achievements as a war correspondent sealed her reputation as an important journalist, regardless of gender. She reported on the "hidden war" in Guatemala, scooping her colleagues worldwide; she interviewed heads of state, leading politicians, and celebrities throughout the US and UK. On the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, she tracked down and interviewed Fidel Castro for the Sunday London Times, against the orders of the US Secretary of State.
But her life was not all work. Her lovers included Olive Rinder, Vita Sackville-West, and the woman for whom she forsook them both, Joy McSweeney, with whom she lived until Joy's death in 1988. Her friends included Radclyffe Hall, Una Troubridge, and other female intellectuals. Among her personal accomplishments are the Stanhope Medal for bravery-which she was the first woman in 94 years to receive.
Irons's journalistic celebrity won her entrée into homes and offices worldwide, including the White House, a tour of which she was given by then-resident Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout the 1950s she traveled with the Royal Family to cover various excursions; in this capacity, she provided the first official written confirmation of King George's death and Elizabeth's ascension to the throne. Interview subjects included President and Mrs. Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, WH Auden, Colette, Elizabeth Bowen, Dag Hammerskjold, and Aristotle Onassis. She even managed to track down Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman who were in hiding on the Italian island of Stromboli; attempting to escape the media frenzy over their affair, Evelyn hired a boat, rowed over to the island, and got her interview. In the 1960s she published in The New Yorker her account of her time with Virginia Woolf, whom she had met through Sackville-West in the early 1930s.
The archive, comprising approximately 6 cubic feet of material, is broken down as follows:
  1. Manuscript Material  (including relevant correspondence, and notebooks)
  2. Photographs
  3. Clippings
  4. Printed Matter
  5. The Irons / Rinder Archive
  6. The Irons / McSweeney Archive
I. Manuscript Material
80 Manuscripts / Typescripts, totaling approximately 450 pp. (numbers are approximate)
Related photos and clippings are often present, but have been numbered in the photo and clipping sections (II and III); incoming telegrams and outgoing correspondence appear throughout archive, and have been noted below only when exceptional.
Early personal material:
  • 7 pp. manuscript, story for Olive Rinder [in Olive file].
  • 10 pp. lightly corrected typescript, "Poor Little Thing," a story.
  • 9 pp. typescript / 14 pp. manuscript (plus and tear sheets), "Around Ireland in Eleven Days," 1935.
  • 7 pp. manuscript, article, "My Day / by Evelor Orefelt," a parody of Eleanor Roosevelt's
"My Day" column, 1939.
  • 1 p. typescript dispatch to London Telegraph re: Berectsgarten.
  • 3 pp. typescript interview with Frau Rudolf Hess, with two congratulatory telegrams to Irons. (Clipping included)
  • 3 pp. typescript interview with Irons for BBC's "In Town Tonight," 1945.
  • 2 pp. typescript, Colette, 1951.
  • 11 pp. manuscript notes, 5 pp. typescript, "Happiest Memory," From Royal Tour-Canada, 1951.
  • A dozen pages of typescript carbon speeches of Princess Elizabeth, notes for the press, budgets, etc.
  • 3 ALS and TLS to Joy, containing additional impressions of the trip.
  • 65 pp. typescript telegraphs and 3 pp. typescript "Diary" from Royal Tour-Kenya, re: King George's death. Includes official telegram announcing death of King George, and specially bound commemorative book by the Evening Standard of all its news coverage of the King's death including all of Evelyn's articles, 1952.
(Evelyn covered overseas tours made by the British Royal family. At various times she traveled with Princess Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother. On this 1952 trip, rumors reached them that George VI had died. Poor communications technology made it impossible to confirm the death. It was, in fact, the telegram Irons received from the Evening Standard which provided the first official written conformation of the king's death and Elizabeth's ascension to the role of Queen.)
  • 7 telegrams, 1953, from her editor at the Evening Standard re: her assignments.  
  • 5 pp. typescript "Rosenbergs," 1953, lightly corrected.
  • 17 pp. typescript of various articles about Texas and Texans, 1953. (Irons was sent to Texas to do a series on Texan millionaires. Held up at gunpoint in her hotel room, she negotiated with the intruder, and the story made headlines.)
  • 2 pp. typescript on Auden, 1953.
  • 5 pp. typescript "Women," 1953.
  • 2 pp. typescript on "I Love Lucy," 1953.
  • 5 pp. typescript on Dr. Alfred Charles Kinsey and his revelations of "sexual behavior in the human female," 1953, lightly corrected.
  • 10 pp. typescript and 6 pp. typescript re Bergman-Rossellini
  • 3 pp. typescript, "Margaret Truman," 1953.
  • Guatemala material, 1954:
40 pp. typescript drafts and telegrams from Central America;
5 pp. manuscript draft telegram from Central America;
10 pp. related telegrams from her editor, her budget notes, etc.
(In 1954, the US was concerned about Cuba's attempt to overthrow the government of Guatemala. Insurgents had cut off communications and the rebellion was rumored to be out of control. Irons, along with other journalists, flew to Tegucigalpa in neighboring Honduras in hopes of reporting on the volatile situation. However, the US government was doing its best to impede press coverage until the US was able to assist in bringing the rebellion under control.
Evelyn refused to be thwarted. For $15 she hired a mule to take her to the battle zone. For 12 hours Evelyn clung to her mule through raging rivers and over mountainous terrain in hopes of reaching the rebel territory. The mule gave up but Evelyn kept going and arrived in time to hear the first gunshots fired, scooping all other reporters.
The headline of her story, which blazed across the entire front page of the June 29, 1954, edition of the Evening Standard-and which was picked up by American newspapers-read, "I Find the Hidden War." Dean Rusk (Head of State Department) wrote in a telegram: "Miss Irons not lady in restricted sense, but seasoned War Correspondent who valiantly covered Guatemalan Liberation in 1954…Department requests transport Miss Irons lest she arrives San Domingo by breaststroke or canoe.")
  • 6 pp. typescript "Ottawa Roundup," 1954.
  • 5 pp. typescript, "Onassis," 1954.
  • 4 pp. typescript "Margaret," 1955.
  • 3 ALS to McSweeney, offering additional impressions, 1955.
  • 10 pp. typescript corrected draft and final, "Post," 1955.
  • 4 pp. typescript, "Kitt," 1955.
  • 5 pp. typescript, "Kennedy," 1956.
  • 8 pp. typescript,, 2 articles, "Budapest," 1956.
  • 14 pp. typescript, 3 articles, "Vienna," 1956.
  • 5 pp. typescript, "Mamie Eisenhower-The Queen's Hostess," 1957.
  • 7 pp. typescript, "Garbo," 1957.
  • 5 pp. typescript, "American Hospital Experience," 1958.
  • 7 pp. typescript, "Women Behind Bars," 1958.
  • 8 pp. typescript, "Busty," 1959.
  • 1 pp. typescript, "Suggested lines for notice to WPN," 1959.
  • 3 pp., manuscript carbon, 2 Foreign Correspondent's Weekly Records (of article word counts).
  • Castro interview material, 1961:
  1. pp. ALS/TLS to Joy, including first hand personal account of experience.
75 typescript / manuscript pp., interview notes, quotes from Castro, diary, manuscripts drafts, typescripts, and several leaves of related correspondence.
Also present are related newspaper articles, travel documents and passes, etc.
  • "An Evening With Virginia Woolf" / New Yorker material, 1963:
5 pp. typescript, heavily corrected, and with setting notes;
TLS forwarding a copy of the magazine containing the piece, and that copy, severely
water damaged;
Check stub for payment.
  • Chappaquidick material, 1969:
2 FC's Weekly Records, with several clippings.
  • 5 typescript pp. (in letter format), on B. Traven, Mexico City, 1970, and related incoming telegrams.
  • 2 typescript pp. (in letter format), on Jack Drummond, 1972, and related notes and clips.
Additional material
2 Date books: 1948, 1949.
21 16mo. manuscript notebooks, 1940s-70, most labeled with the date and country/city.
[most are together in front of box 1; several are included in files with manuscript / typescript material by year, usually with related photos and clippings]
16mo. clipping notebook ("diary cuttings")
16mo. Manuscript "catalogue of books."
II. Photographs
Approximately 200 photographs; numbers below are approximate; photos are black and white unless otherwise noted.
6 albums of meticulously labeled photos and two dozen loose photos of
Evelyn's childhood, family, homes, holidays and university life (including a series of
photos of early companion Winfred Holtby in school dramatic productions, and two
portraits of Irons dating to the late 1920s).
One dozen photos of Olive Rinder [in Rinder file].
Several portraits from the late 1930s [in 1930s file].
Three dozen photos (plus negatives) of Ireland, from her 1935 trip.
Several photos of (fire brigades?), male and female in London, 1940s.
Two dozen photographs of Berchtesgarten and vicinity.
100 photos and corresponding contact sheet images including Berchtesgarten,
war locations, and personal photos.
Half-dozen portraits, 1940s.
22 Exterior;
30 of Irons & Co. at Medmenham
6 Medmenham, color.
5 from Bergman-Rossellini trip.
2 color slides, Princess Margaret.
2 elderly portraits, color; one black and white.
Three photos from African trip, 1969.
 III.  Clippings
Hundreds; primarily her own articles, some anonymously published; but also several dozen related to her rescue of Joy (together with a copy of the Royal Humane Society Annual Report and correspondence relating to the Silver Medal), and occasional articles used for reference.
Clippings appear in envelopes by date, or in files / envelopes of original typescript material and photographs relating to article.
IV.  Printed Matter
Occasional maps, brochures, work permits, press passes, travel orders, and the like, appear throughout the archive. Notable examples include,
RAF Slang Made Easy, London, the Sylvan Press, n.d.
Bomber Command Continues, Issued for the Air Ministry by the Ministry of Information, 1942.
Funeral program, Duke of Kent, 1942.
Kenya / Your Queries Answered, 1951.
Programme, Royal Family visit to Kenya, 1952.
Order of Service, King George VI, 1952.
A dozen pages of mimeograph typescript material for press re: Royal Commonwealth Tour, 1953.
Hungary's Fight for Freedom, 1956, Life magazine
V. The Irons / Rinder Archive
1931-32. 14 letters, 4 manuscripts and one poem from Olive Rinder, spanning their relationship.
VI. The Irons / McSweeney Archive
This mini archive-about 250 letters between them-contains valuable insight into Irons's life and work.
In early letters, Irons wrote of her break-ups with Sackville-West and Rinder. Later letters trace the evolution of her new and final relationship, with McSweeney.   
Many of Irons's letters contain personal accounts of her experiences-impressions not mentioned in her newspaper articles. Joy, for her part, kept Evelyn up to date on news from home-hardships and scarcities faced during the war, gossip about friends and details of daily living.
In addition, the letters-together with photographs and diaries-document McSweeney's life.

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