Born Johanna Louise Heusser on June 12, 1827 in the rural area of Hirzel, Switzerland. As a child, she spent several summers in the area around Chur in Graubünden, the setting she later would use in her novels.
In 1852, Johanna Heusser married Bernhard Spyri, a lawyer. While living in the city of Zürich she began to write about life in the country. Mrs. Spyri 's first book titled A Leaf on Vrony's Grave, was published in 1871 and the following year further stories for both adults and children appeared, among them the tale of Heidi that became an instant and enduring success. Heidi, the story of an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps, is not only famous for its vivid portrayal of the landscape but also for its understanding of how children see life and their feelings.
Unfortunately, her husband and only child, a son named Bernhard, both died in 1884. Alone, she devoted herself to charitable causes and wrote over fifty more stories before passing away on July 7, 1901. She was interred in the family plot at the Sihlfeld-A Cemetery in Zürich, Switzerland.
An icon in Switzerland, Johanna Spyri's portrait was placed on a postage stamp in 1951 and on a 20F coin in 2001.