Tess Slesinger

A novelist with a skill for balancing deep emotion with biting satire, Tess Slesinger became one of the first writers to explicitly discuss abortion in her 1932 story, “Missis Flinders.” Slesinger studied at Swarthmore before earning her BA from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1925. After working as a journalist for a few years, she married editor Herbert Solow in 1928 and began writing book reviews for his left-wing Menorah Journal. She divorced in 1932 and used her marriage and the petty squabbles of the magazine publishing world as grist for her 1934 novel The Unpossessed. She published a collection of short stories, Time: The Present, in 1935, the same year she was hired as a Hollywood screenwriter. Her first assignment was the screen adaptation of The Good Earth, and on the set she met her second husband, Frank Davis, with whom she would write several more screenplays. While working in Hollywood, she also helped found the Screen Writers’ Guild. Slesinger died of cancer at age thirty-nine and did not live to see the premiere of her final collaboration with Davis, the acclaimed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Topics: Film, Fiction, Journalism

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An unconventional childhood and her association with Jewish left-wing literary radicals shaped the biting satire of Tess Slesinger's novels and short stories. Her subsequent conquest of Hollywood as a screenwriter was cut short by her untimely death at age thirty-nine.

Institution: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH, www.americanjewisharchives.org

Date of Birth

New York, NY
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Tess Slesinger." (Viewed on March 8, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/slesinger-tess>.


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