Theresa Strouth Gaul
Martha Finley was born on April 26, 1828, to Dr. James Brown Finley and Maria Theresa Brown Finley in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her mother died when Finley was quite young, and Finley grew up with her father and stepfamily in Philadelphia and South Bend, Indiana. Educated in private schools, Finley briefly taught school in Indiana before beginning her literary career in Philadelphia at the age of twenty-six. In 1876, Finley moved to Elkton, Maryland, where she lived a quiet life filled with writing and church activities.
Finley published some thirty-five Sunday school stories for children between 1853 and 1875 under the pseudonym Martha Farquharson (Gaelic for Finley). Her most popular and enduring work, Elsie Dinsmore, was published in 1867. This book, which sold more than five million copies over six decades, initiated a series of twenty-eight Elsie books, one of the first series for girls featuring a continuing set of characters. The publication of each successive book was met by public clamor for another, and the series ended only with Finley's death in 1909 at the age of eighty. Neither her novels for adults nor a companion series, beginning with the 1878 publication of Mildred Keith, would ever attain the popularity of the Elsie books.
Although Finley authored nearly 100 books, her reputation rests almost solely on the Elsie Dinsmore series. Finley's heroine, a pious young girl with golden ringlets, weeps and swoons her way through a variety of situations stock to nineteenth-century children's sentimental novels. The first two books, ElsieDinsmore