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Stratton, Florence (1881–1938)

Kalen Lewis Biography Entry

Florence Stratton was a writer, historian, editor, folklorist, journalist, educator, and socialite. She was born to Judge Asa Evens Stratton, Jr., and Louisa Henrietta (Waldman) Stratton in Brazoria County, Texas, on March 21, 1881. Her parents married on February 5, 1867, and they had three children—daughters Florence and Emily and son Charles, who died at the age of two. Their father, Judge Asa Evens Stratton, fought for the Confederacy in Company S of the Thirteenth Texas Calvary Regiment during the Civil War. Their maternal great grandfather, Peleg Stratton, served as a private in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War in 1777. As a result of this ancestry, Florence later became a charter member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  

When Florence Stratton was a child, the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where she attended high school. She graduated as valedictorian from Normal College in Troy, Alabama, in 1900 and began her career teaching in Troy before moving to Beaumont, Texas, in 1903 following the death of her mother. She was a part of the faculty at Miss Anne’s private school, and she taught at Central High School in Beaumont. In 1905 she resigned from the high school and began working as the charter recording secretary for the Colonel Moffett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Stratton founded two philanthropic organizations: the Milk and Ice Fund, which assisted the economically disenfranchised with goods, and the Empty Stocking Fund, which assisted families with presents during the holidays. As of 2020 the Empty Stocking Fund was still active and managed by Beaumont Enterprises.

In 1907 Stratton began a thirty-one-year career as a newspaper woman, starting as a reporter for the Beaumont Daily Journal. In 1909 she taught literature at the local Belle Austin Institute, and in 1914 she became the society editor for the Beaumont Daily Journal. She spent much time with her friend Willie Chapman Cooper, who was the daughter of Congressman Samuel Bronson Cooper and first wife of Governor William Pettus Hobby. Stratton stayed with them often in the Governor’s Mansion and accompanied them on trips to the nation’s capital. It was rumored, but never proven, that she wrote letters for Hobby. In 1916 she became the city editor for the Daily Journal and continued working as a reporter. After World War I, W. P. Hobby bought out the Beaumont Journal and began the Beaumont Enterprise where he hired Stratton as the society, food, and garden editor in 1920. She also contributed to the paper as a music editor.

In 1922 Stratton began writing the popular “Susie Spindletop Weekly Letter” which covered a variety of topics, including society gossip, vaudeville, movies, and Shakespearean events in Beaumont. The column was published in the Sunday Enterprise for fifteen years. Stratton soon became a feature writer for the Enterprise, as well as a published historian. She wrote and edited five books during her life. Her first book, O. Henry’s Postscripts, written in 1923, was a collection of articles by author William Sydney Porter. Following her first book, she published The Story of Beaumont (1925), which was an edited oral history of the town and the first history written about the city. Stratton is remembered locally as the town’s first official historian. She then published Favorite Recipes of Famous Women (1925) with the help of her friend Willie Chapman Cooper Hobby. In 1931 she published The White Plume from the works of William Sydney Porter and followed that work with the publication of Where the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Folklore (1936), a collection of native folklore of the Hasinai Indians. Where the Storm God Rides was later used by the Texas Textbook Commission as a school reader, and the book is still in publication in the twenty-first century.

While in Beaumont, Florence Stratton lived with her sister Emily Stratton Stevens until 1929. She had a house built with bricks that were taken from the Beaumont bell tower, courthouse, and from her grandfather’s Brazoria sugarcane plantation (Woodlawn Plantation). She resided there until her death on January 28, 1938, in New Orleans, Louisiana, following surgical complications after a prior stroke. She died at Touro Infirmary. The official cause was recorded as Arterio Sclerotic heart disease (arteriosclerosis) with hypertension. The funeral was held at her home at 1929 McFadden Street, with nearly 200 guests in attendance. She was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Beaumont.

W. T. Block, “Florence Stratton: Eminent Enterprise Journalist” (http://mykindred.com/wiess/st-o-b/aboutauthor.php), accessed January 12, 2021. Galveston Daily News, January 29, 1938. Rediscovering Southeast Texas: Florence Stratton (https://www.rediscoveringsetx.com/category/florence-stratton/), accessed January 12, 2021.

Categories:

  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Women
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Historians
  • Literature
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Textbook and Educational Writers

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s

Places:

  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Beaumont

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

Kalen Lewis, “Stratton, Florence,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 06, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/stratton-florence.

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