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SWISHER, BELLA FRENCH

SWISHER, BELLA FRENCH (1837–1893). Bella French Swisher, editor and writer, was born in 1837 in Georgia. About 1841 her family moved to the Midwest. By 1868 she was owner, editor, and publisher of a newspaper, the Western Progress, at Brownsville, Minnesota. She later edited and published the Busy West at St. Paul and at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1874 she began publishing the American Sketch Book at La Cross; in 1877 she moved to Austin and published it there. In 1878 she married John M. Swisher, a veteran of the battle of San Jacinto. The American Sketch Book originally called itself "an historical and home monthly," although it generally appeared only six times a year. The magazine, a hefty collection of poetry, stories, plays, engravings, reminiscences, and county histories as well as recipes and farm hints, was largely written by Mrs. Swisher and a small number of contributing writers. The last issue blamed printing delays for its erratic appearance and announced the advent of the Sketch Book Publishing House, but the Sketch Book never became a commercial success. In 1880 Mrs. Swisher began another venture, the Thermo Water Cure or Hot Air Bath and Hygienic Institute, a health spa designed to relieve rheumatism, neuralgia, paralysis, and other disorders. In 1881 she dropped the Sketch Book's subscription price from three dollars to a dollar a year and announced that she was available for a lecture tour. In 1883 the American Sketch Book ceased publication. Bella Swisher wrote two novels, Struggling Up to the Light: The Story of a Woman's Life (1876, published under the name Bella French), and Rocks and Shoals in the River of Life (1889). The protagonist of Struggling Up to the Light, Martha Bright, overcomes a childhood of abuse and neglect, marries a man hostile to her talents and aspirations, and conquers the stigma of divorce to become a successful poet who writes particularly about the status of women. Swisher also wrote two volumes of poetry, Florecita (1889) and The Sin of Edith Dean (1890). Her "History of Austin, Travis County, Texas," which originally appeared in the American Sketch Book, was issued as a reprint in 1880. After the Sketch Book ceased, she moved to Sausalito, California, where she died on September 28, 1893.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

American Sketch Book, Vols. 4–7 (1877–83). Austin American, October 5, 1955. Sam Houston Dixon, The Poets and Poetry of Texas (Austin: Dixon, 1885). Davis Foute Eagleton, comp. and ed., Writers and Writings of Texas (New York: Broadway, 1913).

Julia L. Vivian

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Julia L. Vivian, "SWISHER, BELLA FRENCH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsw18), accessed July 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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