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Foute, Laura Elizabeth Bibb (1855–1893)

Jo Collier Biography Entry

Writer, journalist, publisher, and founding member of the Texas Woman’s Press Association (see Texas Press Women), Laura Elizabeth Bibb Foute was born near Montgomery, Alabama, about 1855 to Dandridge Asbury Bibb, a physician, and Emma (Taylor) Bibb. The family also included a son named Dandridge Asbury and a younger daughter, Sophia, who died when a child. When Laura was about five years old, the family moved to St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana, and was listed as living in Berwick City in the 1860 census. In 1861 her father died, and the family moved to New Orleans where Laura’s mother became the headmaster of a school located there. When she was old enough, Laura also began teaching and “wrote sketches, essays, and translations from the French” for the New Orleans Times-Democrat and Picayune.

On November 26, 1881, she married Professor William H. Foute in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was principal of a school. In 1882 the couple moved to Houston, Texas, when William Foute accepted the position of superintendent of the public schools in the city,  a position he held from 1882 to 1885. In the following years they had two children, William Holsom and Helen.

In June 1884 William Foute contracted malaria and continued to have health troubles through the end of the year. In 1885 he was “stricken with an infection of the brain.” Her son reportedly died during this time as well. To support her family, Laura Foute turned to writing. She was the society editor for the Houston Post for several years and picked up work from newspapers elsewhere in the United States. At the same time, she was the founder of the Woman’s Exchange of Houston, which opened in November 1886; she also served as the first secretary. In January 1887 she began publishing The Ladies’ Messenger, with herself as editor. One of the objects of the journal was to bring attention to the Woman’s Exchange, with a space devoted to advertising items for sale there. At the time The Ladies’ Messenger was the only publication in the state exclusively for women.

On November 22, 1887, Laura’s mother died in New Orleans. Her daughter Helen died on March 12, 1888, and her husband on March 28, 1889. The multiple deaths affected her health, and a change of scenery was suggested. In the summer of 1890 she went to Boston as a delegate of the Texas Woman’s Press Association to attend the National Editorial Convention. While there she attended a reception given by Boston’s Woman’s Journal, during which Lucy Stone spoke of the expanding opportunities for women. Foute later recalled this event when she wrote in support of woman suffrage in Texas. She remained in the North for several months.

In the summer of 1891 she visited San Antonio, where she formed a friendship with Sara Hartman. When Foute found that she was forced to suspend the publication of her journal, The Gulf Messenger (formerly The Ladies’ Messenger), she moved to San Antonio and formed a publishing partnership with Hartman. The Gulf Messenger became a vehicle for the publication of short stories, poetry, editorials, travelogues, and essays, written largely by Texas women, and is considered to be the most influential among women’s nineteenth-century literary journals in Texas.

After an illness of approximately two weeks, Laura Bibb Foute died of heart failure on December 9, 1893, in San Antonio. She was buried next to her husband and children in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.

Imogene Bentley Dickey, Early Literary Magazines of Texas (Austin: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1970). Rubye DuTerroil, The Role of Women in Nineteenth Century San Antonio (M.A. thesis, St. Mary’s University, 1949). Galveston Daily News, June 10, 1884; November 11, 1886; November 29, 1887; June 25, 1893; February 11, 1894. Sylvia Ann Grider and Lou Halsell Rodenberger, eds., Let’s Hear It: Stories by Texas Women Writers (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003). Sara Hartman, “In Memory of Laura Bibb Foute,” The Gulf Messenger, December 1893.

Categories:

  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Women
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Journals and Publications

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

Places:

  • Central Texas
  • San Antonio
  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Houston

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

Jo Collier, “Foute, Laura Elizabeth Bibb,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 08, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/foute-laura-elizabeth-bibb.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

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