Foote, Mary Hallock, 1847-1938

Alternative names
Birth 1847-11-09
Death 1938-06-25

Biographical notes:

American writer and illustrator, one of the finest western local-color realists of the late 19th century.

From the description of Letter, 1896 Nov. 28, Grass Valley, to Charles P. Scott. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122387683

American author and illustrator.

From the description of Letter to Julia Finch, 1917 August 16. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 55531434

Mary Hallock Foote (1847-1938) was an American novelist and short story writer.

From the description of Papers of Mary Hallock Foote, 1886-1909? (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 86129608

Mary Hallock Foote, writer and illustrator from Milton-on-Hudson, New York, moved west with her husband, a mining engineer, in 1876.

From the description of Mary Hallock Foote collection, 1871-1896. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80056322

From the description of Mary Hallock Foote collection, 1871-1896. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702163769

Mary Hallock Foote was the author of 12 novels and numerous magazine articles that she illustrated herself. She came to Idaho in 1884, joining her husband Arthur Foote, an engineer who designed irrigation works in the Boise valley. Her works portray the American West from a woman's point of view, though politically she was not always in sympathy with feminist aims, as this letter illustrates. Her reminiscences were published as A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West by the Huntington Library (California) in 1972; her life story was fictionalized by Wallace Stegner in his novel, Angle of Repose (1971).

From the guide to the Mary Hallock Foote Letter, 1887 August 5, (Boise State University Library Special Collections and Archives)

American illustrator; later became novelist and short story writer; wrote about the American West where she lived for many years.

From the description of Papers of Mary Hallock Foote, 1885-1894. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 34336537

Illustrator and author of stories and novels about the West; born in Milton, New York, November 19, 1847 and died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1938. In 1875 she married Arthur DeWint Foote, a mining engineer, and moved to New Almaden, California.

From the description of Mary Hallock Foote papers, 1863-1924 (inclusive), 1868-1916 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122397917

Biographical Note

Mary Hallock Foote was born Mary Haviland Hallock on November 19, 1847, at Milton-on-Hudson, N.Y., the youngest of four children. Her close-knit farming family were Quakers, Free-Soil Republicans of English stock, sympathetic to anti-slavery, temperance, and women's rights.

Nathaniel Hallock, Mary's father, unfortunately not an astute businessman in his farming practices, was keenly interested in literature and early influenced Mary in her admiration of Browning, Tennyson, Rossetti, and other Victorians.

Mary's mother, Ann Burling Hallock, affected Mary's development in the social graces. Charming and lady-like, she taught her children strict obedience, at the same time encouraging independence of thought and supporting Mary's decision to attend art school in New York City at the age of 17.

From 1860-64 Mary attended Poughkeepsie Female Seminary (later Vassar) and in Fall 1864 entered the Cooper School of Design for Women in NYC, the only institution at the time when anything approaching an art education could be had for a girl. There she met Helena de Kay, daughter of a prominent New York family and later wife of the distinguished poet and editor of Century Magazine, Richard Watson Gilder, beginning a life-long friendship and a transcontinental correspondence spanning 50 years.

New York teachers included Samuel Frost Johnson, with whom she studied color, John A.E. Whitney, Charles H. Burt, Wm. Rimmer, and Wm. J. Linton. Linton, a well-known English artist, was especially helpful to Foote, teaching her to draw directly on wood rather than on thin paper which then had to be placed face down onto a wood block, with the image transferred to the block by tracing on the paper from the reverse side. Under the tutelage of this exceptional teacher, Foote became one of the America's best designers on the wood.

Through Linton, she met A. V. S. Anthony, art editor for Tichnor and was commissioned in 1874 to work with Thomas Moran on works by Longfellow and Whittier. Quick to catch shadings of character and precise in her detailed representations, she was soon established as one of America's pre-eminent illustrators.

Because of her friendship with Helena de Kay at Cooper Union, she had met Helena's future husband, Richard Watson Gilder, the de facto editor of Scribner's Monthly, committed to securing the best artistic and literary talent in America for his magazine. He became the most important editor in her life, encouraging her to submit her illustrations to the magazine and, later, to write articles and stories accompanying them.

In 1873, Mary Hallock met Arthur De Wint Foote, son of a member of the Connecticut legislature. An engineering student at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, he found that the best opportunities for engineers were opening up in the West, so he went west to work on the Southern Pacific system at Tehachapi Pass, then on the Sutro Tunnel in Virginia City, and finally the New Almaden quicksilver mine near San Jose where he became resident manager. He and Mary were married in Milton on February 9, 1876 but established their first home in the West at New Almaden. Their first child, Arthur Burling Foote was born there in April 1877.

Because of her husband's changing professional fortunes, Mary Hallock Foote moved with him from New Almaden to Santa Cruz, California, to Deadwood, Colorado, to Boise, Idaho, and finally to Grass Valley, California. When conditions made family residence impossible, Mary stayed with her family in Milton where her second child, Elizabeth Townsend Foote, was born in September 1882. A third child, Agnes, was born in Boise in June 1886.

Although she found material for her stories and illustrations wherever she was, it was the Leadville experience in 1879 that gave Foote some of the richest characterizations for her fiction. Stories based on the Leadville characters, especially her first novel, The Led-Horse Claim (1883), established Foote's reputation as a Western writer.

Recognized as one of America's best illustrators, she was chosen a juror on Chalk, Charcoal, Pastel and Other Drawings for the Chicago World's Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893. In 1894 she was elected to the National Academy of Women Painters and Sculptors and acclaimed as the "dean of women illustrators."

Because of her ability to examine the essence of Western life and the impact of specific locale on its residents, her work belongs to the late nineteenth century tradition known as "local color" and was accepted by Gilder and other editors as an important voice from the West.

In the last phase of their lives, Mary and Arthur returned to the East to live with their daughter Betty. Arthur died there, in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1933. Mary Hallock Foote continued to reside in Hingham, dying on June 25, 1938.

From the guide to the Mary Hallock Foote Papers, 1863-1924 (inclusive), 1868-1916 (bulk), (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)


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  • Women--Suffrage--19th century
  • American literature--Women authors
  • Women
  • Women authors
  • Suffragists--19th century
  • Idaho
  • Mines and Mineral Resources
  • Illustrators--Correspondence
  • Suffrage--United States
  • Women--19th century
  • Mines and mineral resources--History
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Women novelists--Correspondence
  • American literature--20th century
  • American literature--19th century
  • Literature
  • Industrial relations


  • Authors
  • Illustrator


  • California (as recorded)
  • Mexico City (Mexico) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Idaho (as recorded)
  • Mexico City (Mexico) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)