Born: June 12, 1827, in Hirzel, Switzerland
Died: July 7, 1901, in Zurich, Switzerland
Joahanna Spyri, the fourth of six children, was born Johanna Heuser. She was named after her father, Johann Jakob Heusser, who was a doctor. Meta Schweitzer Heusser, her mother, was a writer of poetry and songs. Johanna grew up in a German- speaking household and spent most of her life in Hirzel and Zurich.
At the age of twenty-five, she married a lawyer and town clerk named Bernard Spyri. Soon after, they settled in Zurich. Johanna and her husband had one child, a son who died at age twenty-nine of tuberculosis.
Despite her opposition to women being able to attend universities and vote, Spyri felt the need to write. Her first book, a collection of short stories, was published anonymously in 1871 at a time when this was considered inappropriate for ladies of her background. The proceeds from the book aided children who had been displaced by the Franco-Prussian War.
From 1880 to 1881 she wrote Heidi, the work for which she is best remembered. She published many other novels and short stories. Like Heidi, most of her works are set in the towns of the Swiss Alps which are so well-known to her.
Johanna Spyri has been compared to Hans Christian Andersen in her ability to address adult issues in enjoyable children's stories.