tennessee williams

Tennessee Williams. Pictured at the front far left with his Washington University classmates,
Tennessee Williams often expressed disdain for St. Louis. However, later in life, he acknowledged
that his formative years in the city, from age 7 to 26, profoundly shaped his writing. In St. Louis,
Williams came to know the female psyche through his Southern belle mother, Edwina, and beloved
sister, Rose, and came to idealize and hate the male persona embodied in his father, Cornelius.
St. Louis would indeed be the semiautobiographical inspiration for his most acclaimed work.
In 1944, Williams’s The Glass Menagerie had a successful run in Chicago and then opened on
Broadway. This “memory play” contained several aspects of his family life in St. Louis. Williams
was outed by Time magazine in the 1950s. During his life, he battled depression and alcoholism.
His longtime partner, Frank Merlo, died in 1961 from lung cancer, devastating Williams and
leading to a 1969 stay in St. Louis’s Barnes Hospital psych ward. He died in 1983 and is buried
near his mother in St. Louis’s Calvary Cemetery. (Courtesy of Department of Special Collections,
University Archives, Washington University Libraries.)