In this podcast, you’ll hear the voice of a woman who was born in the nineteenth century. Her name is Sophia Wittenberg Mumford, and in the two years before she died, we were working on a book about her life. I would visit her once or twice a week in Amenia, New York, and record our conversations. In this segment, we talk about her work at The Dial magazine in the late teens and early 1920s, about Lewis Mumford’s courtship and how they lived together before marriage (at her insistence). I chose this segment because we began that day by talking about how her view of the past, her own life, her own self, was bound to be different from Lewis’s view. In some of his books, Lewis exposed aspects of their lives that most couples try to keep secret. Sophie didn’t mind that but she did not like other people, even Lewis, or perhaps especially Lewis, saying how she felt. One of the librarians at the Penn Special Collections recently found a note in her handwriting that said, referring to a biography of Lewis that includes a great deal about Sophie, “He never gets the flavour of our marriage & if I were younger I’d tell our story myself.” Sophie died before she could tell the story, but I’m now trying to do that in a new book, Too Near the Flame. Length: 22 minutes.
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