Mollee Coppel Kruger (b. 1929) is a Maryland poet, journalist, playwright, and humorist. She attended the University of Maryland, College Park, from 1946 to 1950 and received her degree in Education. From 1967 to 1983, she authored a weekly poetry column, entitled Unholy Writ, which was syndicated nationally in several Jewish periodicals. Kruger has also published six poetry collections under the Maryben Books imprint. Kruger's papers include correspondence, drafts, notes, scrapbooks, photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, published materials, video tapes, and memorabilia. Notable correspondents in the collection include Cynthia Ozick and Joseph Brodsky. Of particular interest are Kruger's bi-weekly letters home during her time as a student at the University of Maryland.
This collection is open for research.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
24.50 Linear Feet
The Papers of Mollee Coppel Kruger contain manuscripts from her diverse career as a writer in poetry, prose, theater, broadcasting, and advertising, as well as extensive correspondence, clippings, publications, and ephemera. Additionally, the papers include audio-visual materials and some photographs and artwork. The collection spans the period 1934 to 2010. Writings and correspondence from the 1960s and 1990s constitute the bulk of the collection.
Poet, journalist, playwright, and humorist, Mollee Coppel Kruger was born in Bel Air, Maryland, on March 28, 1929, to Jewish immigrant parents, Benjamin and Mary Coppel, and exhibited a flair for verse and the stage from a very tender age. Her first published poem, "May," appeared in the Bel Air Times when she was only twelve, and, by the age of thirteen, she was writing regular letters to the editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun. In high school, Kruger wrote "Teen Topics," a popular column for the Harford Gazette under the pseudonym Suzanne, in addition to serving as editor of several school and extra-curricular publications. By the time of her graduation from high school in 1946, her poem, "No, Woman's Home Companion, I Don't Want to Put My Lipstick on with a Brush," was accepted for publication in Woman's Home Companion. She also won a national prize from Scholastic magazine for her humorous poem called, "Inca Hoots With South America."
Kruger entered the University of Maryland, College Park, in September 1946 to study English and minor in French. As a coed in the immediate post-war era, Kruger witnessed a time of great change on American university campuses, as huge numbers of World War II veterans entered higher education on the GI Bill. Her weekly letters home testify to the productive, often hectic, life of an ambitious young woman. She appeared in University Theater productions of "Night Must Fall" and "Our Town"; wrote a regular column for the campus newspaper, the Diamondback; and served in various editorial capacities for the university humor magazine, Old Line. In 1949, Kruger was inducted into Mortar Board, the most prestigious women's honorary society at the time. She was the first Jewish woman at the University of Maryland to be tapped for membership in the society. Additionally, she was inducted into the journalism honorary, Pi Delta Epsilon.
Upon entering the work force in 1951, Kruger took a position first as a typist-clerk, then as an advertising copy writer at the Baltimore-based Joseph Katz Company. During this time she continued to write poetry and short stories and drafted a novel entitled She Waded in the Water. Much of Kruger's creative writing from this time reflects her experience as a woman in the 1950s office environment. In 1955, she married chemist Jerome Kruger (1927-) with whom she had two sons, Lennard in 1957 and Joseph in 1959. During the 1960s and 1970s, Mollee Kruger was active in a wide variety of literary pursuits from radio and television script writing to plays and poetry. In 1965, she staged a synagogue pulpit drama entitled, "Three Verse Offerings." In 1967, she began a sixteen-year career as a columnist of topical verse for the Jewish Week in Washington, D. C., with her poem, "The Wall-Eyed World," written after Israel's Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria ended. The column, "Unholy Writ" quickly gained a following and was syndicated nationally.
Frustrated by several attempts to collect and publish her "Unholy Writ" poems as a book, Kruger and her husband formed the small press, Maryben Books, and, in 1970, brought out her first book, Unholy Writ: Jewish Poems for the Non-Neurotic. In 1973, she published a companion volume, More Unholy Writ, also under the Maryben Books imprint. Several more books were to follow, including Yankee Shoes: A Light Verse Saunter Through Our Second Hundred Years (1975) and Daughters of Chutzpah: Humorous Verse on the Jewish Woman (Biblio Press, 1983).
In 1978, returning to a full-time job after an absence of twenty four years, she became editor of an in-house publication at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), the Standard, which earned her a 1979 Award for Excellence from the Society of Technical Communications. She left in 1980 to concentrate on free-lancing and worked on the beginning of a novel, Warning Out, in collaboration with Nancy Starnes, a co-worker at NBS, and then, with Starnes, researched and outlined a proposal for a non-fiction book of advice for women over fifty.
In 1983 and 1984, while directing her original musical, Prithee, Happy Birthday, Maryland, for the state of Maryland's 350th anniversary celebration, Kruger developed spasmodic dysphonia, a voice disorder. This curtailed her teaching, numerous poetry readings, and other public engagements; however, Kruger's literary productivity was not compromised. She compensated for the voice loss by increasing her correspondence with friends and family and turned to writing more serious poetry, including poems like "The Cats of Ahuza," written during the four months she lived in Israel during 1984 when her husband was a visiting professor at the Technion in Haifa. During the second half of the 1980s, she increased her output of articles for local suburban newspapers, published numerous letters to the editors of Maryland and Washington newspapers, and wrote essays and poetry. She also became a founding member of the Montgomery County Commission on the Humanities from 1984 to 1991, and, in 2001, she received the Comcast Achievement in Humanities Award. In 1990, she published her fifth book of poetry, Admiral of the Mosquitoes: Columbus and America in Light and Dark Verse, followed by Ladies First: Rhymes and Times of the Presidents' Wives and Other Female Fantasies (1995), which was adapted into a stage musical by Kruger and Winifred Hyson and ran for six years in Washington, D. C., and Baltimore area venues.
At the 1994 National League of American Pen Women Biennial in New York, she swept the national Letters competition, winning seven awards in various categories: Serious Poetry ("Snowblind"); Short Story ("Superfrog" ) and ("I Never Met a Decade I Didn't Like") ; Petrarchan Sonnet ("On Looking Back" and "Sonnet to a Line in the Book of Job"); Published Non-fiction ("What Rhymes With Sincerely Yours?") originally published in Writer's Digest in 1988; and Journalism ("A Day Even for Uncle Frank") which had been published in the Washington Post in 1993. "Snowblind" was later published in Chesapeake, a regional literary magazine, and "Superfrog" appeared in the Pen Woman magazine. That same year she won the nationwide Miriam Rogers Journalism Award for an article on U.S.O. hostesses during World War II. In a shortened version, this was published in the Washington Post as "Last Waltz on the Way to War" at the end of 1994. An earlier essay, "A Holiday Even for Uncle Frank" had appeared in the Washington Post the previous year. The two latter essays have been incorporated into her memoir-in-progress about growing up in a small Maryland town.
In 2001, when the Electrochemical Society commissioned her to create a commemorative poem for the international scientific organization's 100th anniversary, she wrote "The Body Electric." It was presented at the centennial celebration in Philadelphia and later published in Interface. In 2003, she began working on a revival of Ladies First and a novel entitled The God Bubble, developed from parts of Warning Out, begun in the early 1980s. In 2005, Biblio Press published her sixth book of poetry, A Purse of Humorous Verse for the Jewish Woman. Kruger's memoir, The Cobbler's Last: A True Story of Hard Times, War, and the Journey of a Maryland Girl Who Lived over a Shoe Store on Main Street was published in 2010.
Mollee and Jerome Kruger reside in Rockville, Maryland.
The collection is divided into eight series:
Mollee Kruger donated her papers to the University of Maryland Libraries in August 2001. She donated additional materials in April 2002, November 2002, March 2004, April-May 2006, September 2007, October 2007, July 2008, December 2008, August and December 2010, February 2017, and May 2018.
When the collection arrived at the University of Maryland Libraries in October 2001, it was in the rough chronological order imposed by Mollee Kruger. She had created files for events or committees in which she had participated and combined a wide variety of material in each file. These included correspondence, notes, ephemera, and photographs, among others. An attempt was made to preserve this focus on context within the final, processed arrangement of the collection; however, several major alterations to the original order were made.
During processing, most of the correspondence was separated into its own series and arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within each correspondent heading. All manuscripts of a literary nature were separated and arranged alphabetically first by subheading, such as poetry, play, or short stories, then by title (if one was given) or brief descriptors. The Series II description contains additional information on subheadings and descriptors.
Metal paperclips and staples were removed from materials, which were then housed in acid-free folders and archival manuscript boxes. Two scrapbooks and all works of art were separated and placed in mapcase drawers for flat storage. Many clippings and brittle manuscripts were housed in Mylar sleeves backed with sheets of acid-free paper. Clippings which were not placed in Mylar sleeves were interleaved with acid-free paper. In rare cases, clippings were photocopied, and the originals retained with the copy. Certain scrapbook items were removed from their original bindings and re-housed in Mylar sleeves. In these cases, every attempt was made to preserve the original order of the scrapbook as well as the placement of the objects on the page.
In February 2009, aditional gifts from Mollee Kruger, donated July and December 2008, were incorporated into the collection. As a result of this incorporation, Series VIII: Artwork, Memorabilia, and Audo-Visiual Materials was renamed to reflect the addition of audio materials.