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Ardyth Matilda Kennelly (April 15, 1912 – January 19, 2005) was an American novelist, with five novels published between 1949 and 1956 and one published posthumously, in 2014.



Kennelly's parents were James Daniel Kennelly, from an Irish Catholic family, and Lulu "Lula" Amanda Olsen, from a Norwegian-Swedish Mormon family; both were born in Utah. Ardyth was born in Glenada, Oregon, on April 15, 1912. The family soon moved to North Albany, Oregon, where Lula's brother George Rudolph Olsen and his family lived; but when Ardyth was about three, the Kennellys—now with another daughter, Marion, born April 12, 1915—moved back to Salt Lake City, Utah. James was killed in an accident on the job in April 1921; Lula and her daughters then moved into Salt Lake City's Constitution Building, where her mother, Anna Matilda Johnson Olsen, lived and had her chiropractic office. The Kennellys moved back to North Albany in about 1922, and in May of the following year, Lula married a widowed neighbor, Hiram Parker.[1]

Ardyth graduated from Albany High School in 1929 and attended Oregon State College for three years, though she did not graduate. A number of her stories and poems were published in the campus literary magazine, The Manuscript. She moved to Portland in about 1934 and worked for a time on the WPA Federal Writer's Project.[2]

Kennelly married Howard Scott Gibbs, a friend from Albany, in 1935; they divorced in January 1940, and in October of that year she married Egon V. Ullman, an ENT physician who had emigrated from Vienna, Austria. During the war years, Kennelly accompanied her husband, who enlisted as a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force, to his postings in Salt Lake City and several East Coast cities.[2] She was widowed in 1962. Except for brief periods spent in New York City (1963–64) and a farmhouse near Monmouth, Oregon (1969–72), she lived for 40 years in downtown Portland. There she held occasional salons and hosted diverse gatherings of selected guests.[3]


Kennelly's writing career can be divided into three distinct periods:

  • Improvement Era: 1930–1936
  • Pulp romance: 1936–1940
  • Novelist: 1949–2005

Improvement EraEdit

Kennelly began her career at the age of 18 with the publication of three poems in Improvement Era, a publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1930. Between September of that year and January 1936, she published a total of 28 poems and five short stories in this LDS periodical. Although the majority of this work is considered sentimental and focused on love and romance, sub-themes appear as well, hinting at the insight into mature love, motherhood, death, and the restorative working of faith and nature (including human nature) that are expressed in The Peaceable Kingdom.[4]

For the most part, Kennelly's Improvement Era work is considered naive and conventional in structure and plot. The poems are almost uniformly about romantic love. The stories typically end happily, but are varied in theme. How Lovely Youth focuses exclusively on young love; it concerns a young man returning from his two-year Church missionary work. Some Beautiful Way is about motherhood and step-motherhood, and the convergence of the internal realities of a little girl and her stepmother. And Afterward Came Spring is about death and a crisis of faith; given Kennelly's sub-themes in The Peaceable Kingdom, it's notable that in this story nature, rather than doctrine, brings about "proof" and resolution.

Fire and Song is, in the words of its author, "a story of Faith". However, she states, "I'm nineteen. I tell you because I want you to understand if this tremendous theme is handled clumsily and a little--too breathlessly."[5]

Kennelly's remaining story, That Day Was Grand, 1935, is told from the point of view of a very young schoolgirl who idolizes a woman whom she considers the epitome of female beauty and perfection, and possessed of that ineffable quality of "cool." In the story, Kennelly reveals the character Rose's egotism, unattractive lifestyle and taste, slovenliness, shallow values and poor judgment, and her likely fate should she continue to walk the path she has chosen. Rose is not evil by any means, but she is dangerous to herself and dangerous to young Laurel through the influence she could so easily exert if not for the watchfulness and wisdom of Laurel's mother and grandmother. Rose's character is revealed through Laurel's words and the words of others as Laurel reports them.

Pulp romanceEdit

Kennelly's pulp career began the year her Improvement Era contributions ended, in 1936. This year saw the publication of her last poem in the Mormon periodical On A Restless Night, and one of her first mainstream stories, There's No Telling, for the pulp magazine All-Story Love Stories. She published a total of five romance short stories from 1936 to 1940 in All-Story Love Stories and Street & Smith's Love Story Magazine. The stories themselves are lost, unless surviving issues containing them can be located.[citation needed]) The poor paper quality that pulp periodicals are known for, combined with their age, yields a poor prognosis for success. However, it is possible to gain some idea of the nature of the periodicals themselves by viewing a few surviving examples of cover art for each magazine.[6]

Novelist (1949–2005)Edit

Kennelly's first novel, The Peaceable Kingdom, was based on stories from the life of her maternal grandmother; it was published in 1949 and was a Literary Guild selection for December of that year. The Spur (1951) is a fictionalized treatment of the last days of John Wilkes Booth; Good Morning Young Lady (also a Literary Guild selection, in 1953) is a coming of age novel, fictional but including anecdotes based on the life of Butch Cassidy. Up Home (1955) is a sequel to The Peaceable Kingdom, and Marry Me, Carry Me (1956) is based partly on the early years of Kennelly's mother's marriage. The author's final novel, Variation West, was published posthumously, in November 2014. Like The Peaceable Kingdom and Up Home, it begins with stories of domestic life under polygamy in nineteenth-century Salt Lake City, but this much more ambitious novel follows its main characters and their descendants into the 1960s.[7]

At her death in 2005, Kennelly left some other unpublished work, including two late-life memoirs, some early poetry, and a few stories and other shorter writings.

Late careerEdit

Late in life Kennelly developed a second career as an artist, specializing in collages and mixed media constructions. She had two major exhibits. The first was at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery when Kennelly was 84 (in 1996), and the Mark Woolley gallery, in Portland, hosted an exhibit in 2000.[8]

Toward the end of her life Kennelly moved to Vancouver to be near her sister, and died there on January 19, 2005 at the age of 92.[9]

Publications & worksEdit

  • The Gold Door (?) - Collages / mixed media installations, Mark Woolley Gallery, Portland OR, USA.
  • Elizabeth Leach Gallery.[9]
  • Variation West - Sunnycroft Books, 2014, Book
  • Marry Me, Carry Me - Houghton Mifflin Co., 1956, Book
  • Up Home - Houghton Mifflin Co., 1955, Book
  • Good Morning, Young Lady - Houghton Mifflin Co., 1953, Book
  • The Spur - Julian Messner, New York, 1951, Book
  • The Peaceable Kingdom - Houghton Mifflin Co., 1949, Book
  • Last Christmas - Street & Smith's Love Story Magazine, Dec 21, 1940. Story
  • My Love is Here for Tea - All-Story Love Stories, Jan 30, 1937. Story
  • Now That, At Night - All-Story Love Stories, Mar 28, 1936. Story
  • Song About Love - All-Story Love Stories, Mar 7, 1936. Story
  • Theres No Telling - All-Story Love Stories, May 30, 1936. Story
  • On A Restless Night - Improvement Era, v. 39 no. 1, Jan, 1936. Poem
  • On A Long Day - Improvement Era, v. 38 no. 12, Dec, 1935. Poem
  • There Wasn't Much - Improvement Era, v.38 no. 10, Oct, 1935. Poem
  • Last Straw - Improvement Era, v. 38 no. 7, Jul, 1935. Poem
  • That Day Was Grand - Improvement Era, v. 38 no. 5, May, 1935. Story
  • Beyond Belief - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 9, Sep, 1934. Poem
  • For the Dark Stranger - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 7, Jul, 1934. Poem
  • Date Tonight - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 7, Jul, 1934. Poem
  • These Things - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 6, Jun, 1934. Poem
  • Inside Story - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 4, Apr, 1934. Poem
  • Some Beautiful Way - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 2, Feb, 1934. Story
  • On the Back of an Envelope - Improvement Era, v. 37 no. 2, Feb, 1934. Poem
  • How Lovely Youth - Improvement Era, v. 36 no. 10, Aug, 1933. Story
  • Sixteen Sings (set of 10 poems) - Improvement Era, v.36 no. 6, Apr, 1933. Poem
  • I Want Peace - Improvement Era, v. 36 no. 5, Mar, 1933. Poem
  • Fire and Song - Improvement Era, v. 35 no. 12, Oct, 1932. Story
  • Reincarnated - Improvement Era, v. 35 no. 10, Aug, 1932. Poem
  • Conversation On A Still Afternoon - Improvement Era, v. 35 no. 6, Apr, 1932. Poem
  • And Afterward Came Spring - Improvement Era, v. 35 no. 6, Apr, 1932. Story
  • The Color of Yesterday - Improvement Era, v. 35 no. 5, Mar, 1932. Poem
  • Song to Your Coming - Improvement Era, v. 34 no. 7, May, 1931. Poem
  • The Party - Improvement Era, v. 34 no. 2, Dec, 1930. Poem
  • Wish - Improvement Era, v. 33 no. 12, Oct, 1930. Poem
  • Shower - Improvement Era, v. 33 no. 11, Sep, 1930. Poem


  1. ^ "A Short Biography of Ardyth Kennelly", accessed July 31, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Ardyth Kennelly, "Bodies Adjacent" (unpublished memoir, 1992).
  3. ^ Block, Maxine; Anna Herthe Rothe; Marjorie Dent Candee. Current Biography Yearbook (1983 ed.). H. W. Wilson Company. p. 310.
  4. ^ Moos, Dan (2005). Outside America: Race, Ethnicity, and the Role of the American West in National Belonging. UPNE. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-1-58465-506-0.
  5. ^ Ardyth Kennelly, introduction to "Fire and Song," Improvement Era, vol. 35, no. 12 (October 1932), p. 720.
  6. ^ "Magazine Issues". Galactic Central Publications. pp. 11, 180. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  7. ^ "Ardyth Kennelly's Writings", accessed July 31, 2015.
  8. ^ "Visual Arts Listings". The Portland Mercury. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  9. ^ a b "Ardyth Kennelly". The Oregonian. 2005-01-30.

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