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Eleanor H. Porter, an author best known for writing Pollyanna, wrote sentimental short stories and several best-selling novels in the early twentieth century. Pollyanna inspired readers around the world,
and "Pollyanna" later became a synonym for a "fatuous, irrepressible optimist." But before beginning her life as a novelist, Porter contributed more than 200 stories to magazines and newspapers.
Porter was born Eleanor Hodgeman, daughter of Francis H. Hodgeman and Llewella (Woolson) Hodgeman, in Littleton, New Hampshire on December 19, 1868. Llewella Hodgeman was an invalid for many years, and her daughter also had poor health. Porter left hig
h school and enjoyed an outdoor life until her improved health allowed her to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she developed her singing talent.
For many years, Porter sang in concerts and church choirs, and also taught music. On May 3, 1892, the 24-year-old married John Lyman Porter, of Corinth, Vermont. After marrying, Porter lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband. The couple had
Porter's first short story was published in 1900, and Porter became a writer full-time in 1901. Porter used the pseudonym Eleanor Stewart (many sources spell it "Stuart") in her early short stories, which were published in popular women's magazines. At
the age of 38, she published her first novel, Cross Currents, in 1907, followed by the sequel, The Turn of the Tide one year later. Porter published 13 more novels in her career which sold well and garnered reprintings. Besides Pollyan
na, Just David (1916) and Miss Billy (1911), were also best-sellers.
But all of her novels' selling power did not compare to Pollyanna's international success. The book was first published as a serial in the Christian Herald and then as a novel in 1913 by L. C. Paige Publishers. The book, and later the movie, fea
tured a heroine who cheers the stodgy characters of a New England town with her "glad game." The game and her message of gladness sparked a number of Pollyanna clubs across America. The best-selling sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, continues the heroi
ne's adventures in Boston.
Some of Porter's manuscripts and letters are held at the Barrett Library in Special Collections at the University of Virginia. A thorough search of her manuscripts yields no editor, but she did write several letters to Houghton Mifflin publishers Ferris
Greenslet and Roger L. Scaife (Director of the company) about her work. In her notes, under "Literary Agents", Porter scribbled the names "Miss Galbraith Welch, NY" and "Curtis Brown, London." It is not clear if they were her agents. No other informat
ion about editors and agents was found.
Porter died in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 21, 1920, presumably of old age at 52, just weeks after Houghton Mifflin Co. published Mary Marie. Her will made her husband the executor of her estate. In all, Porter wrote 17 novels and
published seven short story collections. Throughout her most popular novels, Porter mixed optimism and sentimentality with success. "I have never believed that we ought to deny discomfort and pain and evil: I have merely thought that it is far better t
o ?greet the unknown with a cheer,'" she said (Kunitz and Haycroft, ed. Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary, 1942).
See supplementary materials for a list of books Eleanor H. Porter wrote.