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RG1409.AM:  Bess Foster Smith, 1887-1988

Papers:  1969, 1973

Johnson County, Nebraska, and Weiser, Idaho:  Author, poet, artist

Size:  Five items


Bess Foster, daughter of Frank and Mary (Nimmons) Foster, was born near Sterling, Johnson County, Nebraska, on June 26, 1887.  She attended the University of Nebraska, receiving her BA in 1914 and her MA in 1917, after which she moved to Weiser, Idaho, to teach high school English.  In 1918 she married Oliver J. Smith, with whom she had two sons.

Bess Foster Smith had a lengthy literary career.  She helped to develop Women’s Vocation Camps through the University of Idaho Extension Service from 1925 to 1943 by giving original pageants, chalk talks and reading original poems.  Her publications included “Sunlit Peaks,” an anthology of Idaho poets; “The Checkered Tablecloth,” her own original poems; “Family Album,” a memoir of her youth; and “My Immortal Friends,” an essay on the classics.  Her writings, both poetry and prose, in numerous magazines and newspapers.  Additionally, she painted over 500 water colors of Idaho scenes.  For more than fifty years Smith was a mentor to young artists and writers.

Bess Foster Smith died at the age of one hundred in Weiser, Idaho, on January 27, 1988.


This collection consists of five items relating to Bess Foster Smith’s life. Included is “Bess’s Picture Book,” a photocopied volume Smith put together in 1973 of her diary entries and drawings from her childhood in rural Johnson County, Nebraska.  Dating from 1900 to 1915, these entries and illustrations describe and picture her family members, her own and nearby houses, schools, and lifestyle and activities.  Other writings from Smith in the collection are a biographical sketch of her father, Frank B. Foster, published in “Bits and Pieces,” 1969; a reminiscence, “Saga of Silver Creek,” 1973.   A 1973 newspaper article about Smith’s nomination for an Idaho Governor’s Award in the Arts.  A cover letter, 1973, accompanies the items comprising this collection.


Envelope containing:

  1. “Bess’s Picture Book,” 1973 – compilation of diary entries and illustrations, 1900-1915 (photocopy)

  2. Frank B. Foster biographical sketch in “Bits and Pieces,” 1969

  3. “Saga of Silver Creek,” 1973

  4. Newspaper article about Smith’s nomination for Idaho Governor’s Award in the Arts, 1973

  5. Cover letter, 1973


Subject headings:

Artists — Idaho

Artists — Nebraska

Authors — Idaho

Authors — Nebraska

Poets — Idaho

Poets — Nebraska

Smith, Bess Foster, 1887-1988


AIF         09-18-2018