Fanny Fern (Mrs. Parton)

American Authoress and Journalist

1811 – 1872 A.D.

 Sara Payson Willis was born in Portland, Me. In 1817 the family removed to Boston, where her father, Nathaniel Willis, became the editor of the Boston Recorder and founder of The Youth’s Companion. Mrs. Willis, the mother, was a superior woman, and of her the daughter said, “All my brother’s poetry, all the capacity for writing, be it little or much, which I possess, came from her.”

Miss Willis was educated at the school of Miss Catherine Beecher in Hartford. Miss Harriet Beecher, afterwards Mrs. Stowe, was one of the teachers. During this time, her brother, Nathaniel P. Willis, a student in Yale, began to attract attention as an author.

She married Charles H. Eldredge, cashier of the Merchants’ National Bank of Boston, and lived in ease and comfort. Three daughters were born to them. But sorrow came. Mr. Eldredge and the eldest daughter died and Mrs. Eldredge was obliged to gain a livelihood for herself and her two remaining girls.

She wrote an essay for publication, but several publishers refused it. At last one accepted it and gave her, as remuneration, fifty cents. Though the outlook was dark she persisted and after a few months journals were glad to get her writings at her own price.

A collection of her sketches was published in 1853 under the title of Fern Leaves, the sale of which reached seventy thousand in a short time.

In 1856 she married James Parton, the author.

Mr. Bonner of the New York Ledger, recognizing the popularity of her writings, engaged her to write an article each week for his journal. This she continued to do without interruption for fourteen years.

Mrs. Parton was always a sympathetic interpreter of childhood and girlhood. She was bright, witty, original, and frank. She hated cant, pomp, affectation, and snobbery. She was a stout champion of the poor, the distressed, and toil-worn.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.