Martha Finley (1828-1909), American teacher and author wrote the Elsie Dinsmore (1867) series.
Martha Finley was born on April 26, 1828, in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her mother died when Martha was quite young, and James Finley, her father, soon remarried. Martha's stepmother, Mary Finley, was a kind and caring woman who always nurtured Martha's desire to learn and supported her ambition to become a writer.
James Finley, a doctor and devout Christian, moved his family to South Bend, Indiana in the mid-1830s. It was a large family: Martha had three older sisters and a younger brother who were eventually joined by two half-sisters and a half-brother. The Finleys were of Scotch-Irish heritage, with deep roots in the Presbyterian Church. Martha's grandfather, Samuel Finley, served in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and was a personal friend of President George Washington. A great-uncle, also named Samuel Finley, had served as president of Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.
Martha was well educated for a girl of her times and spent a year at a boarding school in Philadelphia. After her father's death in 1851, she began her teaching career in Indiana. She later lived with an elder sister in New York City, where Martha continued teaching and began writing stories for Sunday school children. She then joined her widowed stepmother in Philadelphia, where her early stories were first published by the Presbyterian Publication Board. She lived and taught for two years at a private academy in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania -- until the school was closed in 1860, just before the outbreak of the War Between the States.
Determined to become a full-time writer, Martha returned to Philadelphia. Even though she sold several stories (some written under the pen name of "Martha Farquharson"), her first efforts at novel-writing were not successful. But during a period of recuperation from a fall, she crafted the basics of a book that would make her one of the country's best known and most beloved novelists.
Three years after Martha began writing Elsie Dinsmore, the story of the lonely little Southern girl was accepted by the New York firm of Dodd Mead. The publishers divided the original manuscript into two complete books; they also honored Martha's request that pansies (flowers, Martha explained, that symbolized "thoughts of you") be printed on the books' covers. Released in 1868, Elsie Dinsmore became the publisher's best-selling book that year, launching a series that sold millions of copies at home and abroad.
The Elsie stories eventually expanded to twenty-eight volumes and included the lives of Elsie's children and grandchildren. Miss Finley published her final Elsie novel in 1905. Four years later, she died less than three months before her eighty-second birthday. She is buried in Elkton, Maryland, where she lived for more than thirty years in the house she built with proceeds from her writing career. Her large estate, carefully managed by her youngest brother, Charles, was left to family members and charities.
The stories of Mildred Keith, Elsie's second cousin, were released as a follow-up to the Elsie books. The Mildred books are considered to be partly autobiographical. Like the fictional Mildred, Martha's family moved to Indiana in the mid-1830s in hopes of a brighter future on the expanding western frontier. Also like Millie, Martha was one of eight children. Her experiences surely provided the setting and likely many of the characters for her Mildred Keith books. In a foreword to one of the books, Miss Finley specifically mentions that the Keith family's journey to Indiana and the sickly season that they faced there, were events from her own childhood.
Martha Finley never married, never had children of her own, but she was a remarkable woman who lived a quiet life of creativity and Christian charity. She died at age 81, having written many novels, stories, and books for children and adults. Her life on earth ended in 1909, but her legacy lives on in the wonderful stories of faith and family that are at the heart of all her work.
Martha Finley| Posted November 28, 2019
Martha Finley was a great author, an amazing short story writer. www.hearthcabinet.com Her writing is really wonderful and it was influenced by the children and also cultural ambiance. I love her works very much. She was truly a great artist in all means.
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:D| Posted January 26, 2011
i grew up reading the updated 'A Life Of Faith' series of Elsie Dinsmore, and have recently found some that are more of the original story.. :D either way, the story of a young Christian girl living to serve GOD is just inspiring, and i think it's waay better than so many of the newer 'Christian' fantasy stories out today... :D
Elsie is so real, so uplifting, and truly GOD honoring! :D may the works of Martha Finley live on forever!!!! :D