Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maria Moravsky (1889-1947)

Poet, Author, Printer, Publisher, Hobbyist
Born December 31 [?], 1889, Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)
Died June 26, 1947, Miami, Florida

Born in Siberia, Nadia L. Shapiro escaped the convulsions of the Russian Revolution by fleeing eastward. Polish poet Maria Moravsky, living in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), fled to the west. Born in Warsaw when Poland was yet part of the Russian Empire, Maria was in her late twenties when the czar abdicated. (1) Like thousands of others, she took to the streets during the revolution, by her own account tumbling "wounded from a barricade [and] taken to a hospital," only to learn later that the family with whom she had been staying was in the meantime "'pogromized' and all its members killed." She was also imprisoned for a time and decided in 1917 to emigrate. Her friends urged her to remain, believing things in Russia would calm down, moreover, that she would not be able to make a living as a writer in the United States. They starved in the new communist Petrograd. She thrived in her newly-adopted country.

Known as a poet (or "poetess") in her native land, Maria went to work for a newspaper upon arriving stateside in 1917. "I learned that in America poetry was not a gainful profession," she recalled, "so I decided to write prose." Her first published article in English appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1918. Soon after, Harper's published her first story. Over the next four decades, her work appeared in every kind of magazine, from The Nation, The Bookman, and The Outlook to Reader's Digest, The Writer, and Popular Science to Love Romances, Marriage Stories, Brief Stories, and Short StoriesWeird Tales printed five of her stories and one poem spread out over twenty-two years, from 1926 to 1948. Stories by Maria Moravsky also appeared in Ghost Stories, Startling Stories, and Strange Stories between 1928 and 1941.

Maria Moravsky lived in the United States for about half her life. In 1920, when the census taker found her, she was boarding on West Washington Square in Manhattan and employed as a writer. (2) Ten years later, Maria was married to another writer and living in Lakeland, Florida. Her husband, Edward M. "Ted" Coughlan, was born in Newfoundland and made his living in the pulp jungle of the 1930s and '40s, writing mystery stories for Black Book Detective, Detective Novels Magazine, G-Man Detective, Popular Magazine, Short Stories, Thrilling Detective, and Thrilling Mystery. He and his wife collaborated on at least one tale, "The Flaming Gods," for Short Stories (March 25, 1942).

The number of books published by Maria Moravsky or Maria Coughlan is uncertain. Thomas Y. Crowell issued her novel The Bird of Fire: A Tale of Russia in Revolution in 1927. I have also found references to books entitled Winglets and Poems (1938). The confusion arises from the fact that for many years, Maria operated her own printing press and published her own books from her Miami home, called "Fiction Farm." Maria arrived in Miami in 1932 and set about mastering (in the words of a contemporary article) "more than a dozen arts, trades, and floral and faunal activities." "Diversified hobbies are nerve tonics," she said, and Maria Coughlan was diversified. In addition to making garden furniture; growing coffee, vanilla, and aloe vera; practicing hydroponic gardening; raising ducks; and breeding lovebirds, Maria used a small hand press to print her own books of poetry, illustrated with linoleum-block prints she made herself. One of her poems was her book-length autobiography, "The Tiled Walk." Sadly, all this came to a crashing halt with her premature death from the results of a brain hemorrhage on June 6, 1947, in Miami.

(1) Maria Moravsky's birth year was 1889; one source gives her birthdate as December 31, but that may have been simply for neat record-keeping. Maria's birth year on several websites is given as 1859, an obvious error. An Internet query on Maria Moravsky offers her full name as Maria Magdalina Francheska Ludwigovna Moravskaya [sic], without providing a source for that name or spelling.
(2) Another Russian writer, David Cummings [1889-?], who worked at one time for The Music Trades, was also in the household. A question whose answer may be irretrievably lost in time: What was their relationship?

Maria Moravsky's Stories and Poem in Weird Tales
"The Ode to Pegasus" (story, Nov. 1926)
"The Castle of Tamara" (story, Apr. 1927)
"Beyond the Frame" (story, July 1940)
"Into Fantasy" (poem, Nov. 1942)
"Lover of Caladiums" (story, May 1943)
"The Green Brothers Take Over" (story, Jan. 1948)

Further Reading
There is a very interesting article on Maria Moravsky available on the Internet. It's called "Miami Writer Has Ridden Into Print on 'Hobbies'," written by Renee Greenfield and published in the Miami News, September 10, 1944, page 3B. You can access it at:

You can also find many of her articles and stories from magazines of the early twentieth century by doing a simple search using her name.

A photograph of Maria Moravsky (on horseback) from an unknown date. Randal Everts has provided the photograph. I have darkened it and recolored it for improved viewing. Otherwise the image is unaltered.
And an image of her autograph.
Popular Detective, April 1943, with Ted Coughlan's byline on the cover. Coughlan was the husband and sometime collaborator of Maria Moravsky Coughlan. I don't know the artist's name. I hope someone out there will provide it. 
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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