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Johanna Spyri
Johanna Spyri, 1879
Johanna Spyri, 1879
Born (1827-06-12)12 June 1827
Hirzel, Switzerland
Died 7 July 1901(1901-07-07) (aged 74)
Zürich, Switzerland
Occupation Short story writer, novelist
Genre Children's literature, adult literature
Notable works Heidi

Johanna Louise Spyri (née Heusser; (12 June 1827 – 7 July 1901) was a Swiss-born author of novels, notably children's stories, and is best known for her book Heidi. Born in Hirzel, a rural area in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland, as a child she spent several summers near Chur in Graubünden, the setting she later would use in her novels.


She was born Johanna Heusser in Hirzel, Switzerland. Her father was a doctor and her mother was a poet.

She lived with her extended family: her grandmother, two aunties, and two cousins as well as her mother, father, two brothers and three sisters. This large household inspired her when she wrote Gritli's Children.

She spent several summers around Chur in Graubünden when she was young. This setting was later used in her novels. Her only education was her village school in Hirzel. She wrote poetry as a child.

She married Bernhard Spyri when she was 25. They met when they were children. They lived in Zurich, Switzerland and had only one child. In Zurich, they were friends with the musician Richard Wagner and poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Both her husband and son died of tuberculosis in 1884.


Heidi Titel
The inside cover of a 1929 edition of Heidi

In 1870, she started writing to help orphans and refugees of the Franco-Prussian War by describing their situation and giving money from her books to help them.

Her first stories were very popular, so she wrote another story about another orphan, Heidi. She published the first part of Heidi anonymously in 1881. It became popular, so she wrote the second part in 1882 using her own name. She became very famous, but preferred a quiet, private life.

She wrote more than forty stories for children in German. Most of these stories have been translated into English. Heidi is still her most popular book, with new editions still published today.

She died in Berlin on July 7, 1901 andis buried with her family Zurich.

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