Martha Harris journals and correspondence
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Martha Harris (1933-2020) was an avid diarist, aspiring novelist, and a longtime member of the Socialist Workers Party of America (SWP).
After Harris graduated from high school, she and her mother moved to Minnesota to live with her brother, American author Mark Harris, while he was completing his Ph.D. While working toward her degree in English literature at the University of Minnesota, Martha Harris met Mahmoud Sayrafiezadeh, an Iranian national who was working towards his doctorate in mathematics. Not long after they met in 1957, the two were married, and together they had three children: Jacob, Jamileh, and Saïd. The family lived together in Brooklyn for a time. Harris and Sayrafiezadeh separated in 1969, as Sayrafiezadeh pursued activities to support socialist revolution. Harris and her son Saïd relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1975, but her and Sayrafiezadeh's mutual support of the Socialist Workers Party remained an influence on the family. Saïd Sayrafiezadeh has written of the lasting effects of his parents' SWP membership on his family in his 2009 memoirWhen Will Skateboards Be Free.
Frugal living was an important part of Harris's identity as a socialist. But the struggles of single parenthood and frequent disappointments in the publishing world caused Harris mental distress, and she suffered from depression and anxiety over the course of her life. An avid diarist, Martha Harris began keeping journals at twelve years old, the first being a gift from her mother.
Martha Harris died on November 17, 2020, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Sayrafiezadeh, Saïd. When Skateboards Will be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood. New York: Dial Press, 2009. Print. Sayrafiezadeh, Saïd. Email to Rebecca Johnson Melvin, November 19, 2020.
This collection comprises the life writing of Martha Harris, younger sister of American author Mark Harris, who was born in Mt. Vernon, New York, in 1933. Through her volumes of diaries, journals, and notebooks which span the dates 1945-2011, Harris provides a comprehensive narrative of her experiences living in Minnesota as a teenage schoolgirl, undergraduate student, and aspiring writer, as well as her marital transition from wife to single mother.
Harris's journals, filled with daily entries, serve as collections of personal and family documents and correspondence. The journals document a unique American woman's challenging emotional, political, and social existence during a momentous consciousness-raising era. Each journal is richly supplemented with many in-laid items, including postcards, photographs, children's school work, art, notes, handwritten correspondence, and printed email. Included in the collection are letters from her husband Mahmoud Sayrafiezadeh, her three children, and others who contributed to both Harris's professional and personal networks of support.
Gift of Martha Harris, 2015-2016
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2016 March 4
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec