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ISOBEL OSBOURNE (STRONG) FIELD  (1858 – 1953)

For writing and artwork by Isobel:  WRITING  |  ARTWORK

The first child of Fanny and Samuel, Isobel Stewart Osbourne (nicknamed Belle) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 18 September 1858. At the age of five she accompanied her mother to the Nevada silver mines to live with her prospector father. By the time the family settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, Belle was almost ten. She attended Lincoln Grammar School in San Francisco where she was terribly unhappy, Dr. Lunt’s Dancing Academy where her artistic side flourished, Oakland Grammar School where she finally made friends, and then Oakland High School. Yet Belle was never exactly an ace student.

It was in Oakland that a teacher brought Belle’s artistic talents to her parents’ attention. She was soon taken out of High School and began attending the School of Design in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, her mother began attending classes as well (taught by Virgil Williams).

Preparing Belle for a suitable marriage (and/or profession as an artist) soon became a ready excuse for Fanny to leave her philandering husband under the pretext of a trip to study art in Europe. In Paris, Belle began attending classes at the Académie Julian. After her youngest brother’s death, the family spent a summer in Grez-sur-Loing where Belle fell in love with a young Irish artist named Frank O’Meara, however, Frank was not yet ready to settle down.

In 1878, Belle returned with her mother and brother to her family home in Oakland. It was while they spent time in Monterey that Belle fell in love again with an artist. This time it was Joseph Dwight Strong, the son of missionary parents, who was raised in Hawaii. Joe and his artist sisters were often companions of the Osbourne family, yet Fanny warned her daughter that if she dared think of marrying such a man it would make for as unhappy a match as she was experiencing.

Not heeding her mother’s advice, Belle secretly received permission from her father to marry Joe in the fall of 1879. Just over a year later they had a son named Joseph Austin Strong in San Francisco, where they lived until 1882 when they moved to Hawaii.

In Hawaii, Belle became an intimate of both white/missionary society and the native Royal Family. Joe received commissions to support the family as best he could, while Belle raised Austin and taught drawing and dancing classes. Eventually she even received King Kalakaua’s appointment to the Royal Order of Oceania in 1889.

That same year, the ship Casco dropped off her mother, brother, Stevenson and Stevenson’s mother at Honolulu. After some reconciliation and good times, the family dispersed for more adventures. While Mrs. Thomas Stevenson returned to Scotland, Fanny, Lloyd, Louis and Joe set sail to explore more islands. Thus Belle and young Austin were sent to stay in Sydney, Australia, until the four adventurers met up with them and all continued on to Europe. Or so they planned.

For health reason, Louis and Fanny traveled back to Samoa and stayed there to monitor the building of their home, Vailima. Lloyd went off to England to sell of the Bournemouth house and bring all personal possessions back to Samoa. And so the Strong family decided to stay in Australia until the house in Samoa was finished.

The Strongs lived in the Pineapple Cottage at Vailima until Belle decided to divorce her husband for his constant drunkenness and philandering in 1892. After Stevenson’s death, Belle stayed with her mother in an attempt to keep the plantation going, but eventually it was sold off and they all returned to California.

The life of Belle after the death of Stevenson is not well documented; she was regularly referred to as Teuila by herself, her family and her friends and she had a clear place in American literary society. She traveled a lot, spent time with her family, and worked on her memoirs. Once her mother died, Belle married Fanny’s personal secretary Edward “Ned” Salisbury-Field. Ned was a writer and artist, and they were together until his death in 1936.

Belle outlived everyone in the family from the days in Samoa, only dying in 1953 (a year after her son Austin passed). She had no grandchildren and so left much of her estate to her nurse Margaret “Angel” Bailey, from whom a part of the RLSMuseum’s permanent collection was acquired.

 
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WRITINGS

Books

Memories of Vailima (1903) [with Lloyd Osbourne]
The Girl from Home, A Story of Honolulu (1905)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1911)
This Life I’ve Loved (1937)
Bit of My Life (1951)

Essays, Articles, Short -Stories

Authors’ carnival album (1880)
Artists in Honolulu (The Ingleside, San Francisco, February 7, 1885)
Vailima table-talk : Robert Louis Stevenson in his home life (Scribner’s Magazine, June 1896)
Women in Samoa (1897) [printed in Samoan]
R.L.S. (1899)
Stevenson’s Relations with Mr. Colvin (Critic, Vol. XXXV, No. 868, New York, October 1899)
Kaiulani and her Royal Mother (The Argonaut Magazine, Vol. XLIV, No. 1150, March 27, 1899)
Society Success in New York (The Argonaut Magazine, Vol. XLIV, No. 1151, April 3, 1899)
Warriors Who Write (The Argonaut, Vol. XLIV, No. 1163, San Franciso, June 26, 1899)
Stevenson in Samoa (Century Magazine, 1899)
Under the Banyan (Munsey’s Magazine, October 1900, pp.108-111)
Tin Jack (Critic Magazine, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 5, New York, May 1901)
In Samoa With Stevenson (Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, New York, February 1902)
A Little Savage Gentleman (The Spinners’ Book of Fiction, 1907)
Theatrical Boarding-House in Sydney (Scribner’s Magazine, Vol. LXVI, No. 7, New York, July, 1919)

Contributor

Last witness for Robert Louis Stevenson (1960) [written by Elsie Noble Caldwell]

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ARTWORK

“Robert Louis Stevenson” pencil on paper, 1892
“Sosimo” oil on canvas, n.d.
“RLS Teaching Austin” pencil and ink on paper, n.d.
“Lloyd Osbourne” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Robert Louis Stevenson Giving Ositini Lessons in Scottish History” ink on paper, 1893

‘Sargent’s Rodeo’ (Lippincot’s Magazine, Jan. 1880) – written by Fanny, artwork by Belle and Joe
Collections:
Drawings from France (1876-78)
Watercolors of Haiti, January 1923
Watercolors for “Teuila Fortune Telling Cards,” circa 1922
Painted photographs & Watercolors of Zaca Lake, circa 1927
Drawings, Watercolors and Woodblocks (assorted papers)
“RLS dictating a novel to his step-daughter” pencil on paper, n.d.
“History Lesson, RLS & Austin Strong” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Kitchen Boy” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Madam and her breadfruit tree” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Front of the House” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Faauma in the old table-cloth” pencil on paper, n.d.
“House of Queen Vaekehu, Tai-o-hae” pencil on paper, n.d.
“Untitled [Nativity Scene]” watercolor, n.d.

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Address

1490 Library Lane
P.O. Box 23
St. Helena, CA 94574

Reach Out

T 707.963.3757
F 707.963.0917

info@stevensonmuseum.org

Hours

Tuesday – Saturday
12:00pm – 4:00pm

Closed for Federal Holidays