Playwright, poet. Gibbes was born in Columbia on October 12, 1870, the daughter of Wade Hampton Gibbes and Jane A. Mason. Inspired by her “urge to write,” in 1895 she became the first woman to enroll in South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina), two years after the General Assembly mandated that women should be allowed to attend the school as special students. She attended classes until 1899 but did not earn a degree.
Gibbes published her first work, Book of Poems, in 1902. Her first play, Jael, was published in 1922 and won the Town Theatre literary prize that year. Jael was followed by Hilda (1923), The Face (1924), Up There! (1932), and Dawn in Carolina (1946). Her best-known work was The Face, produced in Columbia, New York, Mississippi, and Palm Beach, Florida. Gibbes received numerous awards for her plays. According to a review in the Times Literary Supplement (December 13, 1923), she produced works that were “worthy of the Elizabethan tradition of poetic drama.”
Gibbes traveled extensively throughout her life. In 1925 she went to France with her husband, Oscar Lovell Keith, Professor of Romance Languages at the University of South Carolina. This excursion, with several university students and Columbia community members, was the first Summer School Abroad Program at the University of South Carolina. Gibbes and Keith had one daughter, Frances Gibbes Keith, born in 1913. Gibbes died on October 4, 1948, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Columbia.
Gibbes, Frances Guignard. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.