"Faces We Seldom See: The Author of the Elsie Books"
by Florence Wilson
The author of the famous "Elsie" books has succeeded in keeping her personality hidden so completely from
a curious public that it is almost as an entire stranger to her readers that THE LADIES HOME JOURNAL is
able to present Miss Martha Finley.
She was born at Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1828, and for her first score or so of years, lived in different towns of
Ohio and Indiana with her parents, Dr. James Brown Finley and Maria Theresa Brown. She was educated,
for the most part, at home and in private schools in these different cities.
Soon after the death of her parents, about 1853, Miss Finley removed to New York, and a little later to
Philadelphia, which she in turn left for Phoenixville, in the same State, and where she taught school for a
number of years. During the war, and until 1874, her time was spent in either the one or the other of those
places, and in the early part of 1874 -- her school having been destroyed by the war -- she removed to
Bedford, Pennsylvania, where she made her home with an aunt and a sister. While in Philadelphia in 1876,
at the Centennial Exposition, she visited relatives at Elkton, Maryland, and being in very poor health,
and the surgeon whom she had selected as her physician residing there, she decided to make her home in
that delightful town.
When about twenty-six years of age Miss Finley began her career as a writer, by contributing short stories
to the children's departments of various Sunday school papers. Writing at first anonymously, the
success of her stories induced her publishers to ask her to sign them; and as her family objected to the
publishing of her own name, "Martha Farquharson" was chosen as her nom de plume. Farquharson is
the clan name, the Gaelic of Finley, the family being of Scotch Irish ancestry.
Miss Finley's first successful Sunday school book was called "Jennie White." "Elsie Dinsmore,"
the idea of which, Miss Finley says, was given her as answer to a prayer for something which would
yield her an income, was begun during the war, and with no intention of ever being continued in sequels,
but the requests for the continuation have been so numerous and the demands of both public and
publisher so imperative that it has never seemed possible to bring the series to a conclusion. In addition
to Miss Finley's stories for children she has published several novels.
Miss Finley has been an invalid for a number of years and has done much of her writing while prostrated
by illness. Despite this she keeps a bright and cheerful dispostion, and is loved by all who know her.
In appearance Miss Finley is very pleasant. She is of average height with a figure inclined to plumpness.
Her hair is snow white and forms a lovely setting to the delicate features and beautiful eyes beneath it.
She dresses in the simplest taste, her favorite colors for her own wear being navy blue and gray.
Although the dogs of criticism have been let loose upon "Martha Farquharson" and her series of "Elsie,"
there has been almost no character in American juvenile fiction which has attained more widespread
interest and affection. And for the author of this children's heroine there can be nothing but the
kindliest feeling. In her simple womanliness and Christianity she is a type of the best in
Ladies' Home Journal April 1893
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