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Woman of the Century/Sara Payson Willis Parton

PARTON, Mrs. Sara Payson Willis, author, born in Portland, Me., 9th July, 1811, and died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 10th October, 1872. She was a daughter of Nathaniel and Sara Willis. She received the name Grata Payson. after the mother of Edward Payson, the preacher, but she afterwards took the name of her mother, Sara. The family removed to Boston in 1817, where her father for many years edited "The Recorder," a religious journal, and the "Youth's Companion." Sara was a brilliant and affectionate child. She was educated in the Boston public schools, and afterwards became a student in Catherine Beecher's seminary in Hartford, Conn. She received a thorough training, that did much to develop her literary talent. In 1837 she became the wife of Charles H. Eldredge, a Boston bank cashier. In 1846 Mr. Eldredge died, leaving Mrs. Eldredge, with two children, in straitened circumstances. She tried to support her- self and children by sewing, but the work prostrated her. She sought vainly to get a position as teacher in the public schools. After repeated discouragements, she, in 1851, thought of using her literary talent She wrote a series of short, crisp, sparkling articles, which she sold to Boston newspapers at a half-dollar apiece. They at once attracted attention and were widely copied. Her pen-name, "Fanny Fern," soon became popular, and her "Fern Leaves," as the sketches were entitled, brought her offers for better pay from New York publishers. She brought out a volume of "Fern Leaves," of which eighty-thousand copies were sold in a few weeks. In 1854 she removed to New York City, and there she farmed her literary connection with Robert Bonner's "New York Ledger," which was continued for sixteen years. In New York she became acquainted with James Parton, the author, who was assisting her brother, Nathaniel P. Willis, in conducting the "Home Journal." In 1856 she became Mr. Parton's wife. Their tastes were similar, and their union proved a happy one. She was a prolific writer. Her works include: "Fern Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio" (Auburn, 1853, followed by a second series, New York, 1854); "Little Ferns for Fanny's Little Friends" (1854); "Ruth Hall," a novel based on the pathetic incidents of her own life (1854); "Fresh Leaves "(1855); "Rose Clark," a novel (1857); "A New Story-Book for Children" (1864); "Folly as it Flies " (1868); "The Play-Day Book" (1869); "Ginger-Snaps" (1870), and "Caper-Sauce, a Volume of Chit-Chat " (1871). Most of her books were republished in London, Eng., and a London publisher in 1855 brought out a volume entitled "Life and Beauties of Fanny Fern." Her husband published, in 1872, "Fanny Fern: A Memorial Volume," containing selections from her writings and a memoir. Her style is unique. She wrote satire and sarcasm so that it attracted those who were portrayed. She had wit, humor and pathos. With mature years and experience her productions took on a philosophical tone and became more polished. Her books have been sold by the hundreds of thousands, and many of them are still in demand. She was especially successful in juvenile literature, and "Fanny Fern" was the most widely known and popular pen-name of the last forty years.