Hope Hale Davis, 100; Author, Writing Teacher, Feminist and Communist

From a Times Staff Writer

Hope Hale Davis, an author and writing teacher whose memoir of the 1930s recounted her experiences as an early feminist and communist, died of pneumonia Saturday in Boston. She was 100.

Davis taught seminars on journal writing and autobiography for many years at Radcliffe, where she was teacher of the year in the 1990s. She continued to teach until shortly before her death.

In 1995 she published "Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s," which told of two of her four marriages -- including one to Claud Cockburn, the renowned radical British journalist -- and her romance with the Communist Party.

She also wrote short stories for magazines such as the New Yorker and published a collection in 1968 titled "The Dark Way to the Plaza."

Davis was born in 1903 in Columbus Junction, Iowa. Her father died just before she was born, and she was raised by her mother, a teacher.

Her first husband was a scenery painter for a vaudeville company. She was working as a magazine editor and promotions manager when she met Cockburn and married him in order to have a child. She planned to raise the "Project Revolutionary Baby," as she referred to their future daughter, Claudia, on her own.

Her marriage to Cockburn, who became editor of the British Daily Worker, was brief. She next married German economist Hermann Brunck when they both were working in Washington and joined the Communist Party with him in 1934. Brunck developed mental problems and later committed suicide.

Davis settled down to life as a faculty wife after her marriage in 1939 to Robert Gorham Davis, a literary critic and longtime English professor at Columbia University who was an early mentor of Norman Mailer. He died in 1998.

Davis, who did not have a college degree, began teaching writing at Radcliffe in 1985.

She is survived by a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World