Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina
Frances Eliza Hodgson was born in Manchester, England, on November 24, 1849, and had a comfortable and conventional upbringing. Her father, Edwin Hodgson, had a profitable business selling silver tea sets, chandeliers, and other household furnishings. He died unexpectedly in 1852, leaving her mother, Eliza Boond Hodgson, two older brothers, and a younger sister in difficult financial circumstances. A fifth child was born posthumously. Her mother took over the business and saved money by moving the family to a formerly elegant neighborhood now bordered by factory workers' houses, but she ensured that her children remained in school and separate from the neighbors' children. It was in school that Frances discovered her talent for storytelling, amusing her schoolmates with her serialized romantic tales in exchange for the girls' excited attention. "If she had been a sharp, executive, business-like sort of a child," she wrote of herself later, "she might have used her juvenile power as a thing with a certain market value. She might have dictated terms, made conditions, and gained divers school-room advantages. But she had no capacities of the sort. She simply told the stories and the others listened" ( The One I Knew Best of All230).
When the American Civil War stopped the flow of cotton to Manchester's textile mills, other local businesses also began to fail. In 1864, Eliza Hodg\son was forced to sell the family business and accept the offer of her brother, who had emigrated to America, to move the family to New Market, Tennessee, near Knoxville. It was while living first in a log cabin and later in an even smaller rural house that Frances discovered the market value of her stories. Using the money earned from picking berries to pay for return postage, she sent her first