Mary Hallock Foote was born on November 19, 1847, on a quiet little farm, a Quaker settlement, in Milton, New York. She discovered her talent and passion for art while attending the Poughkeepsie Female College and persuaded her parents to send her to Cooper Institute of Design in New York City. A career for a woman was unusual in Victorian society and some thought it quite unacceptable.
Her parents finally acquiesced and she went to New York at age 17. Mary worked hard and possessed much innate talent Upon her graduation Mary immediately took a job as an illustrator for the Fields, Osgood and Co., publishing house as well as drawing for Harpers Weekly and Scribner’s Monthly. She soon gained notoriety and respect as an artist.
When she was 28, she met and married Arthur Dewint Foote who was a civil engineer. They settled, as his work required, in Leadville Colorado where Mary continued her work as an illustrator sending Scribner’s some interesting images of a mining community in the West.
In 1883 she had switched careers and published her first novel, followed by fifteen more novels as well as numerous stories for and magazine articles. Her skillful artwork showed the rest of the country just how beautiful Idaho could be.
Eventually the Footes settled in Boise Idaho staying there for ten years. Mary was not overly fond of Boise but her artwork showed the rest of the country just how beautiful Idaho could be.
During this time her husband, Arthur, lost all of their money speculating on an irrigation system.
They relocated to Grass Valley in California where they lived for over thirty years. All the while Mary kept writing and publishing various aspects of her experiences. Some of her writing was later published as A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West. When she and Arthur were in their late sixties, once again he lost all their money! This time he was speculating on building a road to a mine in the High Sierra Nevadas.
The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner is based on a real life person, and that person was Mary Hallock Foote.