Collection 00/MS.207 - Gordon Friesen Papers

Identity area

Reference code

US BCMLA 00/MS.207


Gordon Friesen Papers


  • 1920-1974 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

3.70 Cubic Feet

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Born 3 Mar 1909 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Parents: Jacob E. Friesen and Maria T. Duerksen.

Married Agnes "Sis" Cunningham July 1941. Died 15 Oct 1996 in New York City. Two children.

Gordon Friesen separated from the Mennonite community and supported radical ideology.  He was a communist supporter and activist.  His negative early life experiences with poverty and the Mennonite community led him to reject the Mennonites and capitalistic ideology in later years. 

Gordon Friesen was born in 1909 in Weatherford, Oklahoma to Jacob and Marie Duerksen Friesen, who were Mennonite Brethren.  Four of his grandparents were part of the first small contingent of Mennonites who immigrated from Russian Crimea and settled in Kansas in 1874.  Friesen spent most of his youth in Oklahoma, except for a year spent in Kansas to try and escape poverty, but they returned to Oklahoma.  The family suffered poverty due to the Depression and Dust Bowl.  His suffering and misery led him to atheistic thoughts. 

Friesen received a high school education and attended college but never graduated.  He married Agnes “Sis” Cunningham in July 1941 and moved to New York that same year.  Friesen was a reporter for several different newspapers over the years including the Detroit Times.  He did freelance work also.  In 1962, he founded Broadside, a magazine full of protest folk songs.  He had close connections with Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, whose songs appeared in the magazine.  The Friesen’s lived a communal life with other folk singers for a time.  They were communist supporters and organizers and were blacklisted during the McCarthy era.  Friesen also worked for a time for CBS and the Office of War Information in New York.  One of Friesen’s major accomplishments was his book Flamethrowers, “a novel about a Mennonite boy trapped between the old world and the new.” (Article about G.F. by Allan Teichroew in Mennonite Life June 1983 Vol. 38) The novel was published in 1936.  Friesen died in 1996.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Born 23 June 1916 in Oklahoma. Parents: Jacob C. Duerksen and Maria Ann Friesen. Married Ruth Kerns in 1966. Married Theresa Folkerts 13 Mar 1971. No children, although Theresa Folkerts had children from previous marriage.

Died 20 June 2005, Memphis. Tennessee.

Author of <em>Dear God I'm Only a Boy</em> and <em>Memphis Belle</em>.

Career as a journalist with United Press, covered Nuremberg Trials and founding of Israel. Later with <em>Memphis Press-Scimitar</em> covered Civil Rights movement.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection contains largely materials pertaining to Gordon Friesen's correspondence from 1920 to 1940 and writings throughout his adult life.  The writings include thoughts and ideas, short stories, novels, and an autobiography with his wife.  Other writings in the collection include works by his wife: screenplays, a novel, and the autobiography.  There is also a short story by his friend Menno Duerksen.


The collection also includes books Friesen had collected.  There are probably autobiographical cassette tapes and reel-to-reel tapes narrated by Friesen and his wife.  There are also records, some of which are spin-offs of the magazine Broadside, which Friesen and his wife edited.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

organized by series Correspondence, Literary Writings, and Miscellaneous.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

open for research use

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Description control area

Description identifier


Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Accession area