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Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams March 26,
1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. He was the son of Cornelius Coffin and
Edwina (Dakin) Williams. His father, Cornelius, was a traveling salesman
who traveled constantly, and moved his family several times during the first
decade of Williams' life. For the first seven years of Williams' life, he, his
mother, and his sister Rose lived with Mrs. Williams father, the
Episcopalian clergyman. Cornelius often abused Williams, by calling him
?Miss Nancy?, because he preferred books to sports. Williams' mother,
Edwina Williams, was a southern belle, and the daughter of a clergyman.
She is frequently cited as the inspiration for the domineering and possessive
mother figures in Williams' plays. Williams was quite close to his older
sister, Rose, who was institutionalized for schizophrenia for much of her
life. The character Laura in the Glass Menagerie is thought to be based
upon Rose. Williams was a sick and lonely child who endangered his frail
health by forgoing sleep to write. The book Mrs. Williams wrote conveys a
sense of family marked with anger, tension, and separateness, which might
help explain some of the recurrent themes of Williams' plays.

If home was ?not a pleasant refuge?, as Williams once said, ?The
outside world was no better.? Williams remembered getting teased by
gangs of boys at school, but he still went. He graduated from high school in
January 1929. He then went on to the University of Missouri that fall. He
was forced to drop out after his third year and go to work for his father in
the shoe business. He worked at the shoe company for three years, and
finally escaped by breaking down. A collapse that is attributed variously to
exhaustion, heart palpitations, and the recurrence of childhood paralysis.
He spent a recuperative summer with his grandparents in Memphis,
Tennessee and enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
He dropped out in 1937. He finally graduated from the University of Iowa
in 1938. He spent the rest of his life writing. He choked to death February
24, 1983 in his suite at Hotel Elysee, in New York, New York. He was
buried in St. Louis, Missouri.

He began his life of writing and wondering, which went on ever
since. Williams was becoming a writer. He began as a child, unlike most
writers, in Remember Me Tom. Williams once said, ?I write from my own
tensions, for me, this is a form of therapy.? In a 1960 interview with Arthur
Gelb in the New York Times, Williams spoke of his, ?Desire for success? :
?I want to reach a mass audience.? Williams was not only a ?poet?, sending
messages of his own isolation out to the world, but the professional writer in
search of an audience, and success. In 1927, pretending to be an unhappily
married traveling salesman, the sixteen year old Williams won third place in
a smart set contest, ?Can A Good Wife Be A Good Sport??; his entry, which
answers no to the question, is reprinted in Remember Me To Tom.

In 1928, his first professionally published story appeared in the
August issue of Weird Tales. In 1929, as a freshman in college, already
thinking of himself as a playwright, Williams announced his ambition to go
to the school of journalism.

Tennessee Williams' career as a playwright got under way in 1935,
during the summer he spent in Memphis. The production of Cairo!
Shanghai! Bombay! gave Williams the motivation to turn out more plays.
The play, co-authored by Dorothy Shapiro, a Memphis friend, was never
printed. In 1936, Williams became associated with The Mummers, a lively
St. Louis theater group under the direction of Willard Holland, whom
Williams praised in his introduction to 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. For them
he wrote a one-actor headline to serve as a curtain-raiser for an Armistice
Day production of Irwin Shaw's Bury The Dead. Within the next two years,
The Mummers produced two full-length Williams plays, Candles In The
Sun, and The Pugitive Kind. A third play, Not About Nightingales, was
about to be done in 1938 when the group died of economic failure. In 1939,
Williams, who by that time had dropped the Thomas Lanier, bundled up
most of his collected works, including a group of one-actors called
American Blues, and shipped them off to the group theater contest. The
judges- Harold Clurman, Irwin Shaw, and Molly Day Thacher- gave him a
special award for ?A group of three sketches which constitute a full-length
play.? The most important part of the theater prize was that Williams got
himself an agent, Audrey Wood,