Louise Bryant (1885–1936)

Louise Bryant Louise Bryant, circa 1922. Courtesy of the Croton Historical Society.

Louise Bryant was an American journalist and writer best known for her marriage to writer, reporter and activist John Reed. She was born in San Francisco in 1885. Her father, Hugh Mohan was a railroad man who died while she was quite young. Her mother remarried Sheridan Bryant and Louise took his name. She attended the University of Nevada and later transferred to the University of Oregon in Eugene, graduating in January of 1909.

She took jobs teaching school in Salinas, California and in a cannery in Seattle. Later in 1909 she married a wealthy Portland dentist, Paul Trullinger. She started writing for THE BLAST, a San Francisco anarchist weekly.

In 1915 she met John Reed while he was visiting family in Portland. She accompanied him back to New York City, and after a few months amiably divorced her husband. Reed and Bryant both began to contribute articles to THE MASSES, a Socialist magazine that Max Eastman was editing in Greenwich Village.

In 1916 she and Reed spent the summer in Provincetown, Cape Cod with other artists and writers. The Provincetown Players performed The Game, a play written by Bryant. While Reed was in New York attending to a serious health condition, she had an affair with Eugene O’Neill.

In the autumn of 1916 Louise and John purchased a weekend retreat called Innisfree, located at 106 Mt Airy Road in the northern Westchester village of Croton-on-Hudson.

In November 1916 John and Louise married and in early 1917 they traveled to Petrograd in Russia to report on the Russian Revolution. They had a number of harrowing experience before Louise returned to New York in February of 1918 where she published her account of what she had seen entitled Six Months in Russia.

When Reed returned from Russia in April, 1918 he was arrested and charged along with others from THE MASSES’s staff for violating the Espionage Act. Reed’s arrest resulted in Bryant losing work. In 1919 she was arrested after she spoke at a rally where President Wilson was burned in effigy. She went on a hunger strike and was released.

Reed returned to Russia and attended the Second Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. He became disillusioned with Lenin, and shortly thereafter, he contracted typhus. Louise traveled to Moscow in September of 1920 and was with him when he died on October 19th.

She continued to work as a journalist and in 1923 published Mirrors of Moscow. In 1924 she married William Cristian Bullit, Jr. a former assistant secretary of State. The marriage ended when Bullit discovered that Bryant was having an affair with the sculptress Gwen Le Gallienne.

In 1928 she developed “adiposis dolorosa,” a rare and painful disease characterized by the development of multiple lipomas. She died in January 1936.