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OWENS, CLAIRE MYERS

OWENS, CLAIRE MYERS (1896–1983). Claire Myers Owens [pseud. Claire Myers Spotswood], writer and lecturer, was born in Rockdale, Texas, on February 11, 1896, to Coren Lee and Susan (Allen) Myers. She grew up in nearby Temple, where her mother and maternal grandmother, Laura (Smith) Allen, taught her the values of a Southern Baptist. Her father was a free-thinking intellectual and believer in Jeffersonian democracy. In 1916 Claire graduated with a B.S. in domestic science from the College of Industrial Arts and left home to carve a professional place for herself. She was denounced and disinherited by her family. During the early years on her own, she did settlement-house and social work in Chicago and in an Alabama mining town and set up a utopian community founded on free love and communal living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In the 1920s she moved to New York, where she worked at Dauber and Pine and other bookshops and wrote short stories, novels, and book reviews (several for Publishers Weekly). After two brief unsuccessful marriages, she married H. Thurston Owens III in 1937, and they settled in New Haven, Connecticut. Though the couple never had any children, their union lasted until Owens's death in 1969.

In her writings Claire Owens championed sexual freedom and financial independence for women. During the 1940s she wrote a column for Today's Woman magazine dealing with independence issues married women confront. In addition to her published work, several novels, short stories, and nonfiction manuscripts are among the holdings of the Owens Collection in the Blagg-Huey Library at Texas Woman's University.

From the age of ten Owens experienced altered states of consciousness. In 1949 she underwent a spiritual rebirth she called a "Great Awakening" that changed the focus of her life. Awakening To The Good: Psychological Or Religious? (1958) and Discovery of the Self (1963) describe the event and struggle to arrive at a scientific explanation for a spiritual state. As a result of her research, she became involved in the humanistic and transpersonal psychology movements of Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich, in addition to Aldous Huxley, who, over the years, came to respect her work and value her friendship. Carl G. Jung's writings shaped her quest. In 1954 she interviewed Jung in his home in Geneva. The article she wrote describing the interview was published in the New York Herald Tribune, Paris edition; it won a prize and was eventually anthologized in C. G. Jung Speaking. In her seventies she joined the Zen Buddhist movement and, with a group of Yale students, moved to Rochester, New York, to study at the Zen Center under the tutelage of Roshi Philip Kapleau. During this period of her life, she contributed chapters to two anthologies on mystical experience: The Highest State of Consciousness, edited by John White (1972), and Transpersonal Psychologies, edited by Charles T. Tart (1975). On her eightieth birthday she began writing her last published book, Zen and the Lady (1979). Two lengthy manuscripts followed: Meditation and the Lady, her fourth autobiography, and Varieties of Self-Realization,an exploration of scientific and philosophical theories on enlightenment and self-realization. Claire Owens died on May 7, 1983. Her ashes are buried beneath a tree in the garden of the Zen Center.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Miriam Kalman Harris, Claire Myers Owens: A Grande Amoureuse (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin). Teresa Iles, ed., All Sides of the Subject (New York: Teachers College Press, 1992).

Miriam Kalman Harris

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Miriam Kalman Harris, "OWENS, CLAIRE MYERS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fownz), accessed September 02, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.