Mary Hallock Foote

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Mary Hallock Foote

Mary Hallock Foote (1847–1938) was an American author and illustrator. She is best known for her illustrated short stories and novels portraying life in the mining communities of the turn-of-the-century American West.

Biography[edit]

Overview[edit]

Mary Hallock was born November 9, 1847, in Milton, New York, of English Quaker ancestry. A singular girl and youth, she attended the Female Collegiate Seminary in Poughkeepsie, New York, then studied art in New York City at the new Cooper Institute School of Design for Women. By her early twenties she had become established in New York City as an accomplished artist-illustrator for notable publishers there. [1]

In 1876 Hallock married a young mining engineer, Arthur De Wint Foote, [2] then moved cross-continent to live with him at the New Almaden mine near San Jose, California. Subsequently, as Arthur pursued his engineering career, she followed him throughout the West: to Leadville, Colorado; to Deadwood, South Dakota; then to Boise, Idaho, where Arthur originated a major irrigation project on the Boise River; then to Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico; and finally to Grass Valley, California, where Arthur advanced to managing the North Star mine, and retired there.

Arthur and Mary Foote were married nearly sixty years. In the early years of their marriage she gave birth to three children; a son, Arthur Burling Foote, and two daughters, Betty and Agnes. [3]

Career[edit]

After departing her beloved East with great reluctance, Mary Hallock Foote found herself inspired by the "real West" country and the varying peoples she encountered there. She soon was drawing it, and writing and telling about it. [4] Recording her travels, Foote wrote stories for 'back-East' readers as a correspondent to The Century Magazine and other periodicals, illustrating them with wood engravings made from her drawings. She is best known for her stories of place, in which she portrayed the rough, picturesque life she experienced and observed in the old West, especially that in the early mining towns. She was one of America's best-known women illustrators in the 1870s and 1880s. She wrote several novels, and illustrated stories and novels by other authors for various publishers. Her letters provide a biography of her husband as well as her autobiography; they were collected by Rodman Paul, who published them in 1972 as the memoir A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West. Rodman Paul at Huntington Library did have copies of the Foote correspondence, but the volume published by the library in 1972 did not include her letters.  :A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West" is Mary Foote's reminiscence. The letters have never been published except as brief excerpts in various areas of research.

Mary Foote gained renown as a welcoming and sophisticated hostess to dignitaries and celebrities travelling through the environs of her (successive) homesteads in the West. After 1905, when she and her husband built North Star House (also known as Foote Mansion) and made permanent settlement in Grass Valley, California, she presided some 30 years over many and historic social and civic events there. [1] [5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Mary Hallock Foote died June 25, 1938, at age 90. Her legacy in American history is as a stalwart of the American Old West and a teller of its stories. Her work—the numerous stories for books and periodicals, with her drawings and woodcut illustrations; the correspondence from western outposts; her novels and nonfiction—gained her notice as a skilled observer of the frontier and an accomplished writer. Her life expressed the civilizing influence of the educated eastern gentlewoman on life in the chaotic mining and 'ditch' camps (irrigation-project construction camps) of the early American West and, conversely, the stimulating effect of those 'old West' environs on the prepared mind, that is, one educated for illustrating and telling the story.

Controversy[edit]

Wallace Stegner's novel Angle of Repose (Pulitzer Prize, 1971) is based directly upon Mary Hallock Foote's extensive personal correspondence. Stegner used the outline of her life with permission from members of Foote's family—on proviso that he disguise the source, which, in his judgment, he did. After publication, however, some descendants objected to "the great liberties" taken by Stegner in using Foote's story.[1] On the opposite hand—in disguising his source—Stegner used passages taken directly from Foote's letters without providing specific credit; this resulted in controversy that still today haunts his reputation within the literary community. [6] [7]

Andrew Imbrie wrote an opera based upon Stegner's novel, which was performed in San Francisco in 1976. A collection of prints by Foote is on permanent exhibit at the Boise Public Library.

Selected works[edit]

  • Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp (1883)
  • In Exile and Other Stories (1894)
  • Coeur d'Alene (1894)
  • The Prodigal (1900)
  • The Desert and the Sown (1902)
  • A Touch of Sun and Other Stories (1903)
  • Royal Americans (1910)
  • The Valley Road (1915)
  • The Ground Swell (1919)
  • A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West The Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote, edited by Rodman W. Paul, ISBN 0-87328-057-1 (1972)
  • The Idaho Stories and Far-West Illustrations of Mary Hallock Foote, edited by Barbara Cragg, Dennis M. Walsh, and Mary Ellen Walsh. (1988)

Cited sources and related reading[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bush, Casey (2003). "Artist-Author Mary Hallock Foote and her Angle of Repose". ochcom.org. Retrieved 2011-07-15. 
  2. ^ Rickard, Thomas Arthur (1922). Interviews with Mining Engineers. San Francisco: Mining and Scientific Press. p. 174. OCLC 2664362. Retrieved 2011-07-15. 
  3. ^ Egli, Ida Rae (1997). No Rooms of Their Own: Women Writers of Early California, 1849–1869. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. p. 221. ISBN 1-890771-01-5. Retrieved 2011-07-15. 
  4. ^ Egli;pp. 221;223
  5. ^ "The North Star House, the Julia Morgan-designed home of Mary Hallock and Arthur DeWint Foote". Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  6. ^ Susan Salter Reynolds (23 March 2003). "Tangle of Repose". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Philip L. Fradkin (Feb 3, 2008). "A Classic, or A Fraud? Plagiarism allegations aimed at Stegner's Angle of Repose won't be put..". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Mary Hallock Foote, James Maguire, Boise State College Western Writers Series Number 2, 1972
  • Mary Hallock Foote, Lee Ann Johnson, Twain Publishers, Boston, 1980
  • "Angle of Repose and the Writings of Mary Hallock Foote: A Source Study," Mary Ellen Walsh, in Critical Essays on Wallace Stegner, edited by Anthony Arthur, G. K. Hall & Co., pp. 184–209, 1982
  • Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature, Wallace Stegner and Richard Etulain, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1983
  • Mary Hallock Foote Author-Illustrator of the American West, Darlis Miller, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2002
  • Cultural Clearcut: The Lost Novels of Mary Hallock Foote, Casey Bush, The Bear Deluxe 2003
  • "Mary Hallock Foote: A Leading Illustrator of the 1870s and 1880s", Sue Rainey, Winterthur Portfolio, Summer/Autumn 2007 (vol. 41, no. 2/3), pp. 97–139.

External links[edit]