|Bella French Swisher|
Around 1841, her family moved to the Midwest. By 1868 she was owner, editor, and publisher of a newspaper, the Western Progress in Brownsville, Minnesota. She later edited and published the Busy West at St. Paul and at Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the American Sketch Book in La Cross.
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 1878 she married John M. Swisher, a wealthy veteran of the battle of San Jacinto. 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.
|Bella Swisher's "American Sketch Book" (Photo: Heritage Auctions)|
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 publication, she moved to Sausalito, California, where she died on September 28, 1893.
Sources: Texas State Historical Society, Find a Grave, Wikipedia, Austin Weekly Statesman, Heritage Auctions