sidebar menu icon

OWENS, CLAIRE MYERS

Claire Myers Owens
Claire Myers Owens. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

OWENS, CLAIRE MYERS (1896–1983). Claire Myers Owens (also known by the pseudonym 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 Southern Baptist values with a determination to nurture her to become a model Southern Belle.

Her father was a free-thinking intellectual and believer in Jeffersonian democracy. In 1916 Claire graduated with a diploma in domestic science from the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman's University) and left home to carve a professional place for herself. During the early years on her own, she did settlement-house and social work in Chicago and in an Alabama mining town and founded a utopian community based on such avant-garde values as free love and communal living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Disappointed and confused by their free-thinking daughter, her family tried to discourage breaking from their traditional lives and values, but Claire’s innate, dynamic drive toward freedom and her passion to discover her “true self” inspired her to live according to her central mission: to discover the “good” in the human race, if any.

In the 1920s Claire 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 in 1937, and they settled in New Haven, Connecticut. Their union lasted until Thurston Owens's death in 1969.

Texas Woman's University Blagg-Huey Library
Texas Woman's University Blagg-Huey Library. Courtesy of Texas Woman's University. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

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 of the day confront. In addition to her published work, several novels, short stories, and nonfiction, autobiographical manuscripts are among the holdings in the Owens Collection at the Texas Woman's University Blagg-Huey Library.

Claire Myers Owens' Discovery of the Self (1963)
Claire Myers Owens' Discovery of the Self (1963). Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

From the age of ten Owens experienced altered states of consciousness which she described in many of her writings. 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 this spiritual state.

As a result of her research, Owens became involved in the humanistic and transpersonal psychology movements with such leaders as Abraham Maslow, Jean Houston, Anthony Sutich, and Aldous Huxley, who respected her work and valued her friendship. Other paradigm shifting thinkers of the later twentieth century who influenced her life and became colleagues and friends include: Kenneth Ring, Charles Tart, Ken Wilbur, John White, and Raul daSilva.

Claire Myers Owens' Zen and the Lady (1979)
Claire Myers Owens' Zen and the Lady (1979). Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Rochester Zen Center Garden
Rochester Zen Center Garden. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Carl G. Jung's writings shaped her quest. In 1954 she interviewed Jung in his home in Zurich. 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 in Rochester, New York.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Claire Myers Owens Papers, Mss 002, Texas Woman's University. 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 Friedman

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Citation

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Miriam Kalman Friedman, "Owens, Claire Myers," accessed September 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fownz.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 16, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.