Frances Hooper Papers on Virginia Woolf
The journalist and advertising executive Frances Milliken Hooper was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 18, 1892 to James K. and Mary E. Milliken Hooper. Her father was a grain merchant. The family resided on Greenwood Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.
After studying American literature at the University of Chicago for a year, Hooper attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1914 with a bachelor's degree in English. Mary Augusta Jordan, one of her most influential English professors, instilled in Hooper a lifelong appreciation of good writing. Hooper published six prose pieces and two poems in the Smith College Monthly between October 1912 and June 1914. Another mentor was Smith College librarian Josephine A. Clark who inspired Hooper to collect books. Book collecting remained a lifelong passion. An illustrated edition of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (New York, 1910), which was given to Hooper by Clark, is in the rare book collection at Smith College. Hooper's correspondence with her parents from 1912 to 1919 and her college photograph album are in the Smith College Archives.
After graduating from Smith College, Hooper pursued a career in journalism. She became a feature writer for the Sunday supplement of the Chicago Herald. In 1920, she was invited by Marshall Field and Company to join their advertising staff. Hooper became head of their promotion department. In the mid-1920s, Hooper founded the Frances Hooper Advertising Agency and was its president until 1961. She was one of the first women in the country to manage her own national advertising agency. Located in the Wrigley Building of Chicago, her agency handled many major accounts, including Smyth Furniture Company and the magazine advertising of the William Wrigley Jr. Company.
As an idea person in the world of advertising, Hooper was attracted to the creative genius of British book illustrator George Cruikshank. Under the tutelage of the great bookseller Walter M. Hill, Hooper began collecting Cruikshank and later built an important collection of work by another British illustrator Kate Greenaway. The author collections of note that she assembled included the work of Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, and Selma Lagerlöf. Hooper also collected manuscripts, including the diaries of Emily and Anne Brontë. In 1990, the Grolier Club featured Hooper in an exhibition of fifteen important women book collectors from the past five centuries.
Hooper began donating her collections to various institutions in 1979, including a few works by Carl Linnaeus to Wellesley College. The following year, Hooper donated her extensive Kate Greenaway collection to the Hunt Institute and wrote an essay about her collection for their exhibition catalogue Kate Greenaway (Pittsburgh: Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, 1980). She gave the rest of her collection of works in English by and about Linnaeus to the Chicago Horticultural Society in 1982. Hooper presented Smith College with the correspondence between Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey in 1985. The rest of Hooper's extensive Virginia Woolf collection came to Smith College after her death. Hooper was primarily interested in Woolf's style as an essayist. As a result, her collection contains manuscript drafts and proof copies of a few of Woolf's essays in addition to British and American editions of most of Woolf's publications. Hooper also collected the books that Virginia Woolf reviewed or discussed in her essays and letters; however, these books were not part of the Frances Hooper Collection of Virginia Woolf Books and Manuscripts received by Smith College. First editions by other authors in Hooper's collection were donated to the University of Chicago after her death.
In addition to being an avid book collector, Hooper owned The Chihuahua Press of Kenilworth, Illinois. A number of books written by Hooper were published under her imprint in the 1970s, including Penny Candy (1970); The Bonnet (1972); A Collector in Being (1973); A Pilgrimage to Gösta Berling's Värmland (1976); Wanted-Housekeeper; Cookie, Cookie, Who Made the Cookie; The Botanist Linnaeus; and Helen Hayes: First Lady of the Theater (1977). Many of the books were illustrated by Eleanor Tobin and composed in Caledonia and Optima types by Bertsch and Cooper and printed by Collins, Miller & Hutchings of Chicago. Hooper favored small formats for her publications which she often gave as gifts to her family and friends.
In addition to books, Hooper was interested in education, women's rights, botany, animals, and music, particularly the opera. Hooper was a major benefactor of Northwestern University in Chicago. She was a fellow of the Pierpont Morgan Library, a member of the Hroswitha Club (an exclusive group of American women book collectors), and a member of the Limited Editions Club. The Linnaeus Society of London, an international organization named after the Swedish botanist, elected Hooper as their first female member. At home, she served on the board of directors of the Woman's Athletic Club of Chicago and organized many of their programs over the years. She was also on the executive board and a founding member of the women's board of the Field Museum of Natural History and a member of the Fortnightly Club of Chicago, a literary discussion group for women. In addition, she was co-founder of Kay's Animal Shelter and the founder and director of the Good Teeth Council for Children.
Frances Hooper died on April 30, 1986, survived by many nieces and nephews. She was a longtime resident of Kenilworth, Illinois.
Sources: Obituary by Kenan Heise in the Chicago Tribune, 3 May 1986 and A Smith Spectrum (Northampton: Smith College, 1986.)