Adele Gutman Nathan

September 15, 1889–July 24, 1986

by Loraine Hammack

In Brief

With a lifelong passion for both theater and history, Adele Gutman Nathan made a career of creating historical pageants, leading to her writing the guide How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration. After earning an MA from Johns Hopkins University, she directed theater in Baltimore and New York. Nathan wrote fourteen children’s books, in addition to newspaper and magazines articles for publications such as the <i>New York Times Magazine. Her talent for creating historical pageants and commemorative events led her to stage events such as the 1933 and 1939 World’s Fairs and the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. She also served as president of The Woman Pays (a feminist club for artists and intellectuals) from 1967 to 1968 and 1977 to 1983.


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. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.


Commire, Anne, ed. Something About the Author 48: 174.

Contemporary Authors.

Nathan, Adele Gutman. How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1976.

Obituaries. AB Bookman’s Weekly 78, no. 10: 831.

“Adele Nathan, Author of Books for Children.” The New York Times, July 26, 1986.


WWWIA 9 (1985–1989): 263.

Who’s Who in America. 38th ed. Marquis Who's Who, Inc., 1975.

WWIAJ (1938): 770.

Who’s Who of American Women. 8th ed. Marquis Who’s Who Inc., 1974. 697.

Young, Timothy. “Life’s Rich Pageant” (1993).

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How to cite this page

Hammack, Loraine. "Adele Gutman Nathan." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2024) <>.