Pearl S. Buck: Someone Every West Virginian Should Know, Why and How

Nov 3, 2014

Pearl Buck in 1932, about the time The Good Earth was published.
Credit Arnold Genthe [Public domain] / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia University announced a partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College that will honor and celebrate, preserve and offer for research a collection of works by Pulitzer Prize winning author and Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck.

Message from WVU:

In order to preserve and promote the legacy of Pearl S. Buck, West Virginia University and West Virginia Wesleyan College are collaborating with the Pearl S, Buck Birthplace Foundation to increase use of the Pearl S. Buck Collection and stimulate Pearl S. Buck studies in West Virginia and beyond.

Goals of this partnership include archival preservation, the creation of a Pearl S. Buck Collection website, and the development of education and outreach initiatives including research grants, a biennial conference and award, and a new publication series through the WVU Press.

West Virginia's Pearl

Pearl S. Buck was born in 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Three months later, her missionary parents moved with her to China where she spent the large majority of the first 40 years of her life. Can West Virginians claim her as one of their own? A resounding “yes” could be heard in the halls of the WVU library which will now be home to many of her writings.

WVU President Gordon Gee kicked off a recent event in Morgantown to celebrate the collection of the late author. Gee spoke about Buck’s connection to West Virginia.

 

Many of Pearl Buck’s life experiences and political views can be discovered in her writings. She covered a wide range of topics from immigration, adoption, and war, to women's rights.

In fact, in a 1958 interview with Pearl Buck, Mike Wallace tried to pin her down as a militant, man-hating feminist. Buck was very reserved and rejected the title. She said she worried for men and women in a society trying to prepare them both for a manner of success defined in patriarchal terms. Then… she transcended the question completely and spoke on the lonely human condition in the West and the burdens of freedom:

A Rock Star

Buck began to write in the twenties and continued to write until her death in March of 1973, authoring some 100 works. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, appeared in 1930. Her second book The Good Earth stood on the American list of best sellers for a long time and earned her several awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Then in 1938, Buck became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. 

“She was sort of a rock star at that time, and so when she spoke there were always people listening,” said acting president of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, Kirk Judd. He said Pearl was truly a citizen of the globe. Armed with fame and considerable fortune, a global perspective, an education, and steeped in West Virginian morals, she became an outspoken humanitarian. Judd said she’s considered by many to have been wise beyond her years.

The Collection

The Buck collection of manuscripts and other documents which were housed for many years at WV Wesleyan found a new home at WVU. The collection is owned by the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, and includes over 70 of her works including novels, short stories, and children’s books—all of which will also be made available online.

Jolie Lewis is a former board member of the foundation who came up to see the collection dedicated in Morgantown.

 

Lewis also echoed remarks uttered during the dedication, imparting that Pearl S. Buck’s work is a treasure and a source of inspiration for all West Virginians.