Notable Oregonians: Frances Fuller Victor - Writer, Historian

photograph of Frances Fuller Victor
Frances Fuller Victor, 1826-1902. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Frances Fuller was born in Rome, New York in 1826 to Adonigh and Lucy Williams Fuller. The family moved to Wooster, Ohio in 1839 where Frances attended a girls' school. After Ohio newspapers printed her poems, the New York Home Journal, a literary and arts magazine, published poetry and stories from both Frances and her younger sister, Metta. The sisters moved to New York City in 1848 where they joined literary circles that included editors, ministers and other prominent people.
In 1850 Frances and Metta moved to Detroit, Michigan where they edited the Monthly Hesperian and the Odd-Fellows Literary Magazine. Frances married Jackson Barritt in 1853 and moved with him to a land claim in Nebraska. Within three years, the farm failed and the couple divorced. She returned to New York in 1859, where she lived with her sister before marrying naval engineer Henry C. Victor in 1862.
The couple soon moved to San Francisco, where Frances submitted newspaper and magazine stories using the pseudonym "Florence Fane." With an engaging style, Victor commented on events around the city and offered advice to women. After Henry retired from the Navy in 1864, the couple moved to Portland and Frances focused on writing longer histories of the region, which included compiling meticulous first-hand accounts from Oregon territorial leaders such as Matthew Deady and Joe Meek. Her fiction from the period is also praised for describing the powerful forces of western migration and Manifest Destiny.
This prolific period for Victor included books such as: The River of the West in 1870, which looked at Oregon history from the vantage point of colorful mountain man Joe Meek; and All Over Oregon and Washington in 1871, which documented key aspects of Northwest life including significant industries, cultural characteristics and political trends. She also wrote about women's rights for publications, including Abigail Scott Duniway's The New Northwest.
Her husband died in 1875 and Victor returned to California in 1878. Financially strapped, she signed a 10-year contract with noted book collector and historian Hubert Howe Bancroft. A provision of the contract obliged her to provide her extensive collections and historical research. Victor also conducted research and wrote significant portions of several books, including the weighty The History of the West, over the course of 11 years. To her frustration, the books were published under Bancroft's name with barely a mention of her in the acknowledgements.
Victor returned to Oregon in 1889 and struggled to make a living. The Oregon Legislature helped by commissioning the writing of The Early Indian Wars of Oregon. However, she also sold items door-to-door to make ends meet.
Frances Fuller Victor died in 1902 and was buried at River View Cemetery in Portland.
(Sources: Oregon Encyclopedia | City of Portland | Wikipedia)
Next Notable Oregonian: Henry Villard >