Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson Papers
Eleanor Gladys Copenhaver was born on June 15, 1896 in Marion, Virginia, to Bascom Eugene and Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver.
Laura Lu's father founded Marion Female College, which was located next door to the family home, "Rosemont." Laura Lu attended Marion College and later taught English there. Her husband, B.E. Copenhaver, first taught at Marion and then became Smyth County superintendent of schools. In addition, Laura Lu was very active in the Lutheran Church and on the local social scene. She wrote pageants, poetry, and articles for the church and a variety of magazines. She also helped provide employment for local rural women when she founded Rosemont Industries, which marketed mountain handicrafts.
Copenhaver first attended Marion College, then transferred to Westhampton College in Richmond, Virginia, where she earned a B.A. in English in 1917. She taught high school English in Richmond for the 1917-18 school year, then enrolled in the certificate program in Social Economy and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College. In the summer of 1919 she was Camp Director for the New York College Settlement. Bryn Mawr awarded her a certificate in social economy in 1920. Copenhaver joined the national staff of the YWCA in September 1920 as a Field Secretary in the South and Central region. From 1920 to 1923 she primarily worked in rural communities organizing programs, studying conditions, and "interpreting" the Association to public gatherings and church and school groups. She switched to a specialization in industrial communities beginning in 1923, first working in the Central Region, then as National Industrial Secretary based at headquarters in New York City beginning in 1925. She completed a masters degree in political economy at Columbia University in 1933.
The writer Sherwood Anderson began spending summers in Smyth County, Virginia, in the 1920s. He came to know the Copenhaver family after he purchased two small local newspapers. First befriending Laura Lu, Anderson met Eleanor in 1928 when she was visiting from New York. Still married to his third wife at the time, Anderson began following Copenhaver on her travels for the YWCA, eventually convincing her to marry him. They were wed on July 6, 1933, in Virginia.
From 1937 to 1947 Copenhaver Anderson was head of the National YWCA's Industrial Program. She continued to travel extensively for her job, which provided the main financial support for the couple and for various family members through the Depression. Some have speculated that this, Sherwood Anderson's fourth marriage, lasted as long as it did in part because Eleanor was away so much. He died in 1941.
As the National YWCA began to drastically reduce its programs for employed women, Anderdson accepted a two-year assignment with the Foreign Division, departing for Italy in 1947. There she worked on a cooperative program between the YWCA and Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and served as an advisor to the YWCA of Italy on relief projects and employed women's programs.
While Anderson was in Italy, attacks on the YWCA for its supposed communist leanings became especially virulent. Copenhaver Anderson's name was among the many YWCA staff-particularly those in the Industrial Department--accused of communist ties in the 1948 booklet "Behind the Lace Curtains of the YWCA." In Italy, she made the mistake of authorizing an unsecured loan of YWCA funds which were lost when the individual to whom she made the loan disappeared.
After her return to the U.S., Copenhaver Anderson was terminated rather abruptly in 1950 when the YWCA of the U.S.A. eliminated its programs for employed women. During her forced leisure, she organized and transferred Sherwood Anderson's papers to the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Copenhaver Anderson was rehired in 1951 under the auspices of the YWCA and United Community Defense Services, an agency formed from fifteen social service organizations to provide short-term "health, welfare, and recreation services" to rapidly-growing communities near defense industries. She retired from the YWCA-UCDS work in 1961.
In retirement, Copenhaver Anderson spent winters in New York City and summers at "Rosemont" and "Ripshin" in Virginia. She graciously greeted Sherwood Anderson scholars and encouraged their work on her late-husband.
Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson died on September 12, 1985 in Marion, Virginia.