WHO WAS FANNY FERN?
Sara Payson Willis Parton a/k/a Fanny Fern (1811-1872), was originally named Grata Payson, the fifth of nine children. She was educated at the ladies seminary of Catherine Beecher and after returning to Boston, was often a contributor to her father's religious publication, Youth's Companion. Sara was very happily married to Charles Eldredge in 1837, bore 3 children, 2 of whom survived, and was widowed in 1846. Finding herself with no financial help of any kind and unable to make a living, she married Samuel P. Farrington in 1849, at the instigation of her father. They divorced three years later. Again she found herself unable to make a living and was forced to give her daughter Grace into the care of her former in-laws.
It was at this point Sara decided to try to write for a living and soon became quite successful in both America and England. In 1855, she joined the New York Ledger as a weekly columnist at the then astounding salary of $100 per week with a readership of nearly 500,000. The same year, her loosely autobiographical novel, Ruth Hall, was published. In 1856, a second novel, Rose Clark, was not as well received and she married biographer James Parton, her junior. In 1868, she and Jane Croly, formed Sorosis, one of the first women's clubs in America. After a six-year battle with cancer, she died in New York City in 1872. She was buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sara's witty and insightful comments present a social history of American home life of the early Victorian era.