Parton, Sara (1811 - 1872)

Genre: Children's Literature, General Fiction

Sara Willis Parton was born Grata Payson Willis in Portland in 1811, the sister of Nathaniel Willis; she changed her first name to Sara early in her life. Their father, also Nathaniel Willis, founded Youth's Companion in 1827.

Parton was educated in Boston and then worked for her father's magazine until her marriage to Charles H. Eldredge in 1837; he died in 1846.

She then married Samuel P. Farrington in 1849, divorcing him in 1852.

By this time, she was contributing articles to periodicals under the pseudonym "Fanny Fern." In 1853, a collection of her pieces was published as Fern Leaves from Fanny's Port-Foliio; this sold 80,000 copies.

In 1855 Willis began to write a weekly column for the New York Ledger, for $100 per column; she was one of the first women columnists, and she continued this association until she died, commenting on daily affairs with satire and wit. In 1856, she married James Parton, a biographer, and the couple lived in New York City.

Selected Bibliography

  • Fern Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio (1853)
  • Fern Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio - Second Series (1854)
  • Little Ferns for Fanny's Little Friends (1854)
  • Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Times (1855)
  • Rose Clark (1856)
  • The Play-Day Book: New Stories for Little Folks (1857)
  • Fresh Leaves (1857)
  • A New Story Book for Children (1864)
  • Folly As It Flies, Hit At By Fanny Fern (1868)
  • Ginger-Snaps (1870)
  • Caper-Sauce: A Volume of Chit-Chat About Men, Women, and Things (1872)

Selected Resources

  • Famous American Women: A Biographical Dictionary from Colonial Times to the Present (ed. Robert McHenry, 1983)