Anderson was born in Camden, Ohio on September 13, 1876. He was the third
of seven children born to Irwin and Emma Anderson. Due to Irwin’s job
as a hardness maker, the Andersons traveled from one small town to the next
for the first eight years of Sherwood’s life (1).
It was in 1884 when the family settled into Clyde, Ohio; the town which would
later be the inspiration behind Winesburg, Ohio. Clyde, Ohio seemed
to be destined to become the next Columbus or Toledo, but the family's arrival
to Clyde brought mixed emotions to the young Sherwood.(2)
It was the first time that his family stayed in one area for a significant
period of time, but it also signified a new role of Anderson in his family.
His family was expecting the fifth child and Irwin Anderson’s business
practices put the family into financial strain. The family was one of the
poorest in Clyde and Sherwood soon had to take on some of the economic burden.
(3) Young Anderson was soon nicknamed “Jobby”
because of all of the jobs that the boy took on. (4).
The hardships that the boy experienced growing up working and not having a strong father figure in his life, harbored some resentment toward Irwin Anderson. In fact, Sherwood did not feel that he even had a relationship with his father. In his memoirs, Anderson recalls his childhood memories and says, ““I thought he was terrible. I didn’t see how my mother could stand it…. I had got to hating him.” (5) When Sherwood was 19, his mother died of tuberculosis and his father could not keep the family together any longer. Anderson left for Chicago with his brother and loved the variant of the big city. Family life was still hard to deal with, so Anderson decided to leave everyone for a while and signed up for the National Guard, just under three years of arriving to Chicago. (6) When he returned, Anderson decided to head to Springfield, Ohio in order to finish high school. Soon after graduation, with a help of his friend Marco Morrow, Sherwood was able to return to Chicago with a job at an advertising firm. (7)
and his siblings
During Anderson’s second escape to Chicago, he met and fell in love with Cornelia Lane of Toledo. They married in 1904 and two years later they headed to Cleveland where he accepted the job as the president of the United Factories Company. After the birth of Cornelia and Sherwood’s first son, Robert in 1907, Anderson decided he needed to make more money to support his family. Anderson started up his own company and by 1908, Anderson Manufacturing Company was a success. (8) Around the same time, his passion for literature increased. Anderson desperately tried to fulfill both his financial obligations to his family and his person obsession with literature, but the battle was difficult. Sherwood was also having trouble in his marriage. Anderson was quite the lady’s man and the marriage did not slow him down. On his business trips, “Anderson would slip away from them [business meetings], into an alley, for his own quick good time, or check into a hotel under an assumed name.” (9) The tension between his personal gratifications, his troubled marriage and family obligations all came to a break down in November of 1912.
After his recovery, Anderson left the business world and headed back to writing in Chicago. With the help of friends, a publisher soon picked up Sherwood. Cornelia stayed with the children in Ohio until the house sold and then spent the springs and summers with her sister in Michigan and the winters and falls in the Ozarks, where Anderson would come and visit on weekends. In 1916, Cornelia and Sherwood decided to get divorced, three days after it was finalized Anderson married Tennessee Mitchell.(10) While his family life was less than ideal, his career was beginning to take off. His first novel Windy McPherson’s Son was published that same year. The next year he publishes Marching Men. Finally in 1919, Anderson’s finest literary work was created, Winesburg, Ohio. Creating this novel was a battle between Anderson and his publishers because they could not see the complexity or significance of such a novel. After a brief battle and horrendous reviews, Winesburg, Ohio was released to the public. While the shocking novel may have not been appreciated during Anderson’s life, the impact of the novel had great influence on other writers such as Faulkner and Hemingway, in addition to setting a new standard for Midwestern literature.
Through Anderson’s memoirs, readers learn about how almost every single one of his stories or characters come from people that he knew personally or that he had encountered. Winesburg, Ohio was no exception. During the mid-twenties, almost all of Anderson’s work was biographical, or at least semi biographical. (12) In 1924, after divorcing Tennessee, he married Elizabeth Prall. This marriage only lasted until 1928. Anderson then met Eleanor Copenhaver that same year, but does not marry her until 1933. His travels with her around the south and around the world were represented in Anderson’s stories through the 1930’s. Eleanor Copenhaver had inspired Anderson’s interest in the working girl in southern factories, which was the motivation behind writing his novel Perhaps Woman.(13) Anderson stayed with her until he died in Colon, Panama on March 8, 1941.
Sherwood Anderson's Biography
|Biography||Anderson's Legacy||Life in Ohio||Literary Elements|