Victor, Frances (1826–1902)

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Victor, Frances (1826–1902)

American novelist and historian . Name variations: Frances Fuller; Frances Auretta Fuller Victor; (pseudonym) Florence Fane. Born Frances Fuller on May 23, 1826, in Rome, New York; died on November 14, 1902, in Portland, Oregon; daughter of Adonijah Fuller and Lucy A. (Williams) Fuller; sister of Metta Victor (1831–1885); educated at a female seminary in Wooster, Ohio; married Jackson Barritt, in 1853 (divorced March 1862); married Henry Clay Victor (a naval engineer), in May 1862 (died 1875); no children.

Moved to New York with younger sister Metta (1848); wrote poetry and fiction in New York (late 1840s); moved west with first husband (1853); left husband and moved back to New York; wrote for "Dime Novels" series (1862); moved west with second husband (1864); wrote historical works on Western subjects (1870s–90s).

Selected works:

Anizetta, the Guajira: or the Creole of Cuba (1848); Poems of Sentiment and Imagination (with Metta Victor, 1851); East and West; or, The Beauty of Willard's Mill (1862); The Land Claim: A Tale of the Upper Missouri (1862); The River of the West (1870); All Over Oregon and Washington (1872, rev. ed. published as Atlantis Arisen, 1890); The New Penelope (stories, 1877); The History of Oregon (2 vols., 1886–88); The History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana (1890); The History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming (1890); The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894); Poems (1900).

The older sister of Metta Victor , the prolific writer of dime novels, Frances Victor also followed a literary path, writing fiction and poetry before turning to history in her later years. She was born in Rome, New York, in 1826, and her family moved first to Erie, Pennsylvania, and then to Wooster, Ohio, where the two sisters attended an all-female school. They began to write, sending their stories and poems first to local publications and then farther afield. Frances' adventure romance Anizetta, the Guajira: or the Creole of Cuba was published in Boston in 1848, the same year the sisters moved to New York City. In 1851, they jointly wrote and had published Poems of Sentiment and Imagination.

After the death of her father in 1850, Victor moved back to the Midwest to rejoin her family. Living in Michigan near Detroit, she married a man named Jackson Barritt, who took her west to a new homestead in Nebraska. Apparently not cut out for pioneer life, she left her husband and went back to New York to rejoin her sister, who had married Orville James Victor, editor of a new series of cheap adventure stories called "dime novels."

Metta contributed prolifically to the catalogue of dime novels brought out by the publishing house of Beadle and Adams, and Frances also wrote several dime novels, drawing on her Nebraska experiences in East and West; or, The Beauty of Willard's Mill and The Land Claim: A Tale of the Upper Missouri, both published in 1862. That year, she married Orville Victor's brother Henry Clay Victor, a naval engineer with whom she moved west again, this time to the Pacific Coast. She took up residence in San Francisco, contributing to several periodicals there, sometimes under the pseudonym Florence Fane, and accompanied her husband to Oregon late in 1864.

Finding herself once again in pioneer country, Victor turned to a different genre of writing and became a serious historian, one of the few active at that time in the Pacific Northwest. She chronicled the life of a mountain man, The River of the West (1870), and wrote a travelers' guide, All Over Oregon and Washington (1872), as well as a temperance tract, The Women's War with Whisky (1884). She continued writing after her husband's death in a shipwreck in 1875, publishing poems, stories, newspaper columns, and more historical writing. Victor supported herself by working on Hubert Howe Bancroft's monumental History of the Pacific States, a 28-volume opus completed in 1890. Though Bancroft put his name to the entire project, four volumes (The History of Oregon [2 vols., 1886–88], The History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana [1890], and The History of the Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming [1890]) and parts of three others were actually written by Victor. On commission from the Oregon legislature, she also wrote The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894). Her works of Western history are still considered fundamental to further study of these regions.

After again spending some time in New York, Victor passed the last years of her life in Salem and Portland, Oregon. She published her last book, Poems, in 1900, and died in Portland two years later.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

James M. Manheim , freelance writer, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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