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Arts & Culture

An Idaho Controversy: The Pulitzer And Plagiarism

Mary Hallock Foote
This illustration, "The Pretty Girls in the West," drawn by Mary Hallock Foote in 1889, features the patio at her home near Lucky Peak Dam.

It was an Idaho controversy more than one hundred years in the making. And one playwright is bringing the story to the stage Saturday in Boise.

The story begins in the 1880’s. Mary Hallock Foote lived in Boise with her husband as he tried to build a canal system. She later wrote about her time in Idaho and the West in letters and prose. Almost 100 years later, a famous author used her words and her story, without giving her any recognition. That sparked a controversy over what constitutes plagiarism that lingers to this day.

Author Wallace Stegner published the novel “Angle of Repose” in 1972.

“The novel came out, it won the Pulitzer, and then this little controversy began to dog the novel and Stegner for the rest of his life,” says Sands Hall.

Hall is professor of English and Creative Writing at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. She wrote the play “Fair Use,” highlighting the controversy over the use of Foote’s writings.

A staged reading of her play “Fair Use” is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Danny Peterson Theatre in the Morrison Center at Boise State.  The reading is a fundraiser for the Foote Park Project, a nonprofit planning to build an interpretive center at Mary Hallock Foote’s former home site outside Boise.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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