Adele Gutman Nathan
1889 – 1986
Adele Gutman Nathan was born on September 15, 1889, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Ida (Newberger) and Louis Kayton Gutman. Her father owned Joel Gutman and Company, a department store founded by his father. She had two siblings, Joel and Elizabeth. She grew up with claribel and etta cone, friends of her mother, and saw them and gertrude stein in Europe in the 1920s. She graduated from (Baltimore) Girls Latin High School and Goucher College (1910) and did graduate work at Johns Hopkins University (M.A.), Columbia University, and the Peabody Institute. She married James Nathan on February 20, 1912, and divorced him about 1920. She was awarded the Freedom Foundation Award (1953), the Vagabond Players Citation (1971), Special Decoration–U.S. Navy, and the Goucher College Alumnae Award. Her clubs and memberships included Gilbert and Sullivan Association, Lincoln Circle, American Revolution Roundtable (archivist, 1941–1950), The Woman Pays (president, 1967–1968, 1977–1983), the Overseas Press Club of America, and the American Theatre Wing.
Nathan’s long-standing interest in theater began in college and continued to her death. She helped found the Vagabond Players (1916) in Baltimore, was involved in children’s theater with the Little Lyric Theatre (Baltimore) in the 1920s, directed at the Cellar Players of the Hudson Guild (1920s to 1940s) and the Cherry Lane Theatre (New York City), and headed the Federal Theatre Project in New Jersey (1937). She met and produced plays by Theodore Dreiser, H.L. Mencken, Eugene O’Neill, and Elmer Rice. She later directed short nonfiction subjects for Paramount and Grand National Pictures (mid-1930s) and was chief scriptwriter at the U.S. Department of Education (1941). She wrote for newspapers, corresponding from Europe in the mid-1920s about cultural affairs for the Baltimore Daily Gazette and writing in the 1950s for the Cripple Creek Gold Rush (Colorado). She was feature editor for St. Nicholas Magazine (1943–1944) and contributed to Vogue, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, and the Encyclopedia Americana. Nathan had another career as a well-respected writer of nonfiction children’s books, publishing fourteen, many of which had multiple printings and were translated into other languages.
Her greatest successes came as a writer and producer of historical pageants. She staged commemorative events for cities, corporations, and groups, including the centenaries of the B&O Railroad (1927) and of International Harvester (1929), the 1933 and 1939 World’s Fairs, the cities of Rochester, New York (1934), and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (1949), the American Jewish Tercentenary in Trenton (1955), and the Hundredth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1963). In 1974, she wrote How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration for the American Bicentennial.
Adele Gutman Nathan, professionally active until the last two years of her life, transmitted American culture and her long-standing interest in technology, especially railroads, to a general public through theater, film, pageants, articles, and books. She died on July 24, 1986, in New York City.
Adele Gutman Nathan Collection. Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; BEOAJ; Commire, Anne, ed. Something About the Author 48: 174; Contemporary Authors; Nathan, Adele Gutman. How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration (1976); Obituaries. AB Bookman’s Weekly 78, no. 10: 831, and NYTimes; UJE; WWWIA 9 (1985–1989): 263; Who’s Who in America. 38th ed.; WWIAJ (1938): 770; Who’s Who of American Women. 8th ed. (1974): 697; Young, Timothy. “Life’s Rich Pageant” (1993).