Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb (1920-1996) published two books of poems, Moving Violations (Some of Us Press, 1973), and Survival in Prehistory (Working Cultures, 1979), as well as the remarkable nonfiction book From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges (Krieger Publishing, 1993), later made into a documentary film. She also edited Man-Made Lakes: A Selected Guide to the Literature (National Academy of Sciences, 1965), and was co-translator of Marx on Suicide (Northwestern University Press, 1999).
Born in Berlin to a Jewish family, she was able to escape to the US in 1936 as the Nazis were coming to power. As she wrote in her personal essay, “And If I Haven’t Died, I’m Still Alive”: “I arrived in New York in 1936, like most settlers, on a boat. Unlike most, I crossed the ocean not in chains, not in steerage, but second class on H.M.S. Beregaria…Mother and I were not ‘wretched refuse from the teeming shore,’ but, nevertheless, ‘yearning to breathe free,’ or, as it turned out, to breathe at all. We were refugees, not immigrants, as we learned, a subtle but potent class distinction then.”
She studied at the University of Chicago (earning an undergraduate and masters degree), married and divorced twice, and had three children. Edgcomb moved to DC in the early 1950s, and remained here until her death. Among her jobs, she worked as the Washington-Area Executive Director for the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, as a research consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, and a research specialist and bibliographer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She founded a small press, Working Cultures.
To read more about this author:
Merrill Leffler on Gabrielle Edgcomb, Profiles Issue, Summer 2008