PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Our strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,200 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission.
PEN America, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
- PEN America formed on April 19, 1922, in New York City and included among its founding Members writers such as Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Robert Frost, Ellen Glasgow, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Benchley, and, as the first president, Booth Tarkington. PEN America’s launch followed by a year the founding of PEN International in London by Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, a British poet, playwright, and peace activist who enlisted the novelist and playwright John Galsworthy as PEN International’s first president. The intent, in the wake of World War I, was to foster international literary fellowship among writers that would transcend national and ethnic divides. PEN America subscribes to the PEN International Charter.
- Our name was conceived as an acronym: Poets, Essayists, Novelists (later broadened to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists). Over time, as Membership expanded to include a more diverse range of people involved with words and freedom of expression, those categories no longer defined who could join. Today, the “PEN” in PEN America does not represent an acronym.