Los Gatos History Museum Replays Republican Party’s Fight with John Steinbeck Over The Grapes of Wrath


Image of Ruth Comfort Mitchell

Ruth Comfort Mitchell

Sometimes fences don’t make good neighbors. Take, for example, the town of Los Gatos, California, where John Steinbeck lived while writing The Grapes of Wrath. Ruth Comfort Mitchell, a California Republican Party stalwart and longtime Los Gatos resident, made speeches against Steinbeck and rebutted his book with her own novel, Of Human Kindness, a whitewash of California agricultural practices in 1940. The wife of a Republican Party official who served in the state senate, Mitchell was a conservative advocate and author with a following, but she wrote her novel in a hurry, and her defense of Republican Party business values failed to win hearts and minds outside California. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt rode to Steinbeck’s defense, The Grapes of Wrath became a bestseller, and Mitchell’s book was largely forgotten—until now. NUMU, the art and history museum in downtown Los Gatos, recently revived the partisan war of words waged by Mitchell against Steinbeck 75 years ago in an exhibit of books, photos, and documents organized by Amy Long, curator of history. “Mitchell vs. Steinbeck” runs through October 13. Visit the NUMU website  for hours of operation and directions to the Los Gatos Civic Center, located on Main Street across from Los Gatos High School, a 1925 landmark familiar to Steinbeck and his un-neighborly antagonist.

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  1. Mike Gibbs says:

    I’m a Steinbeck fan and believe that healthy discussion is a good thing. Do you mean to say you are against the exhibit because your political preferences lean the other way. Perhaps you should find a “safe space” to retreat to.

  2. Patricia NOLAN Stein says:

    Republicans never grow or evolve, do they? Same now as they were back then!

  3. Patricia Nolan Stein says:

    Ruth Mitchell would probably approve of today’s Republican “values.”

  4. Steve Hauk says:

    As executive director of the museum, Lisa Coscino has been putting together some lively exhibitis. This promises to be another one.

    • Paul Douglass says:

      It sounds like a wonderful display, and whether you think Mitchell’s work has literary merit or not, it is part of the rich and fascinating history of the reception of Grapes of Wrath.


  1. […] free for NUMU members; non-members pay $10 to visit the lively little art and history museum, where “Mitchell vs. Steinbeck”—an exhibit of documents related to Steinbeck, Mitchell, and the controversy over The Grapes of […]

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