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The Last Words of Bette Howland

Brigid Hughes, founder of “A Public Space” magazine, is rescuing the forgotten work of once-celebrated Chicago author Bette Howland.

bette howland
Author Bette HowlandImage: Courtesy of Jacob Howland/A Public Space

Fall 2019

A chance encounter at a used-book store sent Brigid Hughes ’94 on a mission to rescue the forgotten work of a once-celebrated Chicago author.

a public space founder brigid hughes

Northwestern alumna Brigid Hughes, founder of A Public Space magazine

Bette Howland was “one of the significant writers of her generation” in the words of Saul Bellow ’37, ’62 H, but her work had nearly been lost to history when Hughes came across her 1974 memoir, W-3.

“How did a writer of such talent disappear? The story of her career is so resonant with current questions about anonymity and public attention in art,” Hughes says, describing how the memoir inspired a recent issue of A Public Space, the magazine she founded in 2006 after succeeding George Plimpton as editor at the Paris Review. “I wanted to recognize a generation of overlooked women writers and explore how vital work gets erased.”

This year Hughes launched A Public Space Books with Howland’s selected stories, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. The title story was originally published in Northwestern’s TriQuarterly, and the collection has been acclaimed for restoring Howland, who died in 2017, to the literary canon.

A new edition of W-3 is planned for next year. 

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