Johanna Spyri was born in a small village called Hirzel, southeast of Zurich, Switzerland, on June 12, 1827, as the daughter of a country doctor. She went to school and was tutored at home, then studied languages and piano in Zürich. In 1852 she married lawyer Bernhard Spyri (1821-1884) and they had a son, Bernard (1855-1884). In 1871 Spyri started to write stories to raise money for refugees from the Franco-Prussian war, and her first full length story, Heidi, was published in 1881. She wrote many other stories and though some were successful, none of them matched Heidi for popularity or longevity. She died in Zurich on July 7, 1901.