Biographical Note/Scope and Content

Papers of a Wisconsin poet and Discalced Carmelite nun, including correspondence (mostly letters received), handwritten and typescript drafts of poems, clippings of her poems and other writings from magazines and newspapers, and writings about her. Notable correspondents include August Derleth, Raymond E. F. Larsson, Robert F. Morneau, and Regina Siegfried.

Letters from Jessica Powers are in the Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler Papers in this repository.

Gift of the Carmelites of the Carmel of the Mother of God in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, 1989.


Biographical Note

Jessica Powers was born in Mauston, Wisconsin on February 7, 1905. After attending Marquette University’s College of Journalism (1922-1923), she worked as a secretary in Chicago before returning home to keep house for her younger brothers following the death of her mother in 1925. During this time Powers published over a hundred poems, many reflecting her background growing up in rural Wisconsin. She moved to New York in 1937, where she shared a home with the philosopher Anton Pegis and his wife Jessica, a writer, and helped care for their children. Powers grew intellectually and spiritually through her contacts with other writers who were part of the Catholic Revival, and her poems began to take on the contemplative, mystical quality characterizing her work in later years. Her first book, The Lantern Burns, appeared in 1939. Drawn to a cloistered religious vocation, Powers returned to Wisconsin in 1941 and entered the Carmel of the Mother of God, then located near Marquette University, receiving the religious name of Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit. The Carmelites moved to nearby Pewaukee in 1958. There Jessica Powers spent the remainder of her life, dying of a stroke on August 18, 1988.


For additional information, see Winter Music: A life of Jessica Powers: Poet, Nun, Woman of the 20th Century, by Delores R. Leckey.


Scope and Content

Series 1, Writings by Jessica Powers, 1924-1998, undated, is arranged in three subseries: Manuscripts (1), Published Poetry and Other Writings (2), and Selected Poetry Editorial Files (3). 

Series 2, Private Correspondence, 1930-1988, is composed mostly of letters to Powers, but includes letters she sent to Christopher Powell and Sr. Regina Siegfried. It is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Series 3, Biographical and Subject Files, 1939-2001, includes articles, books, and a master's thesis about Powers; information on the 1989 Marquette University in her honor; and a limited number of photographs.

Series 4, Oral History Interviews, 1986-1990, contains 24 audio recordings of interviews conducted by Delores Leckey for her biography of Powers and the transcript of an interview of JP by Bishop Robert Morneau and Sr. Regina Siegfried.