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Mary Fanton Roberts papers, 1880-1956

Biographical Note

Mary Fanton Roberts was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1864. When she was a young girl her family moved to Deadwood, in the Montana territory, where her father had mining prospects. When she was old enough, she and her sister were sent back to New York to attend the Albany Female Academy. After finishing school, Roberts pursued journalism and became a staff writer for four years for the Herald Tribune, the Journal, and the Sun in New York. During her long career she was editor of Demorest Magazine, editor-in-chief of New Idea Woman's Magazine, managing editor of The Craftsman, and creator and editor of The Touchstone Magazine and Decorative Arts magazine. Her longest period at one publication was seventeen years as editor of Arts and Decoration. She often wrote articles on the topic of decorative arts and home decorating, and published two books, Inside 100 Homes, and 101 Ideas for Successful Interiors.
In 1906 she married William Carman Roberts, writer and editor of Literary Digest for thirty years. They lived in Manhattan and Waterford, Connecticut.
Roberts was very involved in the artistic, theatrical, and literary circles in New York City, and met and became friends with many young avant garde American artists, including Robert Henri and John Sloan. Through her husband she met many writers and poets, including Theodore Dreiser and Bliss Carman. Roberts was active in organizations such as the Women's City Club, Pen and Brush, and the MacDowell Society and also attended countless art openings, theater performances, and other social events. As an avid supporter of modern dance, she became friends with many performers, including Isadora Duncan and Angna Enters. After her husband's death in 1941, Roberts moved to the Chelsea Hotel, where she lived for the rest of her life. She maintained lifelong relationships with a wide circle of friends and continued to correspond with them and attend social events until her death in 1956 at the age of 92.