THE FIRST FEMALE EDITOR
Eleanor Crowley Spann was born in South Carolina on the brink of the 19th century. She grew up a devout catholic and maintained a commitment to her faith throughout her entire life. A decade after the death of her husband, she moved with six of her children to Washington County, Texas. In the early 1850s, she and her daughter, Mary, moved to Galveston so that Mary could receive a better education. They lived with their many slaves on Winnie between 18th and 19th street.
Spann is listed on 1850 slave schedule with five slaves and Mary with nineteen. In 1852 they used Frank, Lydia, Sarah, Robert, Isaac, Peter, and Hampton as collateral for a loan. When that loan went unpaid, the slaves were taken from their custody and sold at public auction on the Court House steps. Even so, by 1860 she and Mary still owned eleven slaves.
In Galveston, Spann earned a reputation for her literary prowess and cultural refinement by translating French literature into English. Unsatisfied with the periodicals available to early Galvestonians, Spann decided to publish a monthly magazine that highlighted southern writers and ideals since, as she stated in her first issue, the “mails were burdened with Northern publications.”
In July of 1858, Spann released the first issue of the Texian Monthly Magazine, becoming the first female editor in Texas. Each issue contained eighty pages of material, some written by Spann, alongside selected stories, poems and more of her French literary translations. The magazine earned Spann the description, “a lady of mature years, accomplished education and exalted virtue and possessed of all the buoyancy of youth” in Galveston’s newspaper.
Despite receiving positive reviews, the magazine only produced three or four issues. In the fall of 1858 a yellow fever epidemic struck the city of Galveston, halting production. A total of 344 people died, wiping out five percent of the city’s population. Spann’s magazine never resumed printing after the epidemic. She died in 1860.