Ellen had plenty of faults, but amidst them all love to her mother was the strongest feeling her heart knew. It had power enough now to move her as nothing else could have done; and exerting all her self-command, of which she had sometimes a good deal, she did calm herself...
-from The Wide, Wide World
It was the first bestseller in American publishing history, this sentimental tale of an orphan's adventures alone in the world. Both hailed as a girl's-eye Huckleberry Finn and derided as misogynistic melodrama, its origins are strikingly simple and, in some ways, uniquely feminist: author Susan Warner wrote out of financial desperation only to find fabulous success, like many other women writers even to this today, J.K. Rowling
(Harry Potter) being perhaps the most prominent contemporary example.
Published under the pseudonym "Elizabeth Wetherell" in 1850, this is the tale of Ellen Montgomery, driven from her home and separated from her beloved mother only to journey through the wide world, where she suffers, submits, and is made pure. Modern eyes will see the story through many lenses, but to read the book today is to gain an extraordinary understanding of the mindset of the ordinary American of the mid 18th century, who heartily embraced the book.
American novelist SUSAN BOGERT WARNER (1819-1885) was born in New York City, and lived there all her life. Among her numerous other books for children and adults are Queechy (1852), The Hills of the Shatemuc (1856), Melbourne House (1864), and Mr. Rutherford's Children (1853-55), the last written in collaboration with her sister, Anna Bartlett Warner.