Image of Martha Finley


Lifetime: 1828 - 1909 Passed: ≈ 115 years ago


Teacher, Author


United States

Martha Finley

Martha Finley was an American teacher and author of numerous works for children, the best known being the 28-volume Elsie Dinsmore series which was published over a span of 38 years. Her books tend to be sentimental, with a strong emphasis on religious belief. The daughter of Presbyterian minister Dr. James Brown Finley and his wife and cousin Maria Theresa Brown Finley, she was born on April 26, 1828, in Chillicothe, Ohio. She died in 1909 in Elkton, Maryland. 

Martha Finley was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, April 26, 1828. Her father. Dr. James B Finley, was the oldest son of General Samuel Finley, a Revolutionary officer, major in the Virginia line of cavalry, afterward general of militia in Ohio, and of Mary Brown, daughter of one of Pennsylvania's early legislators. Her maternal grandmother was the daughter of Thomas Butler, who was a great-grandson of that Duke of Ormond who was influential in making the treaty of Utrecht. The Finleys and Browns were of Scotch-Irish descent and had martyr blood in their ancestry. The name of their clan was Farquarharson, the Gaelic of Finley, and for many years Miss Finley used that name as her pen-name. 


The Butlers were military men. Five of Miss Finley's great-uncles of that name were in the war of the Revolution, two of them on George Washington's staff. One of her great-uncles, Dr. Samuel Finley, was one of the early presidents of Princeton College. Her grandfathers, both on her father's and mother's side, were wealthy. Her grandfather Finley received large tracts of land from the Government in acknowledgment of his services to his country during the Revolution. He laid out and owned the town of Newville, Pennsylvania. Some of his land was in Ohio, and he finally removed to that State. 


In the winter of 1853, Finley began her literary career by writing a newspaper story and a little book published by the Baptist Board of Publication. Many of her early works were short stories contributed to the children's sections of Sunday-school papers. Originally written anonymously, the stories’ success led her publishers to ask her to include her name. At the time her family objected to her the publishing under her own name, so she chose "Martha Farquharson" as her pen name. Between 1856 and 1870, she wrote more than twenty Sunday school books and several series of juveniles, one series containing twelve books. These were followed by Casella (Philadelphia, 1869), Peddler of LaGrave, Old Fashioned Boy (Philadelphia, 1871), and Our Fred (New York City, 1874). It is through her "Elsie" and "Mildred" series that she became popular as a writer for the young. Finley did not write exclusively for the young. She wrote three novels, Wanted—A Pedigree (Philadelphia, 1879), Signing the Contract (New York, 1879), and Thorn in the Nest (New York. 1886). 


Finley resided in Elkton, Cecil County, Maryland, in a cottage which she built. On March 3, 1892, she became a member of the Singerly Fire Company, the town's fire department, when she was issued stock certificate 33, which granted her full privileges of membership. There is no evidence to indicate other types of participation in the organization, as most likely Singerly generously benefited from financial contributions from the civic-minded, progressive writer. But she was the only women listed on the rolls of the Elkton fire department until the mid-1970s.

Books by Martha Finley

Elsie Dinsmore Cover image

Elsie Dinsmore

Fiction Religion
Children's Literature Family Life Juvenile fiction

Elsie Dinsmore is a children's book series written by Martha Finley (1828–1909) between 1867 and 1905. Of Finley's two girls' fiction series, the Mildred Keith books were more realistic and autobiographical in nature, while the Elsie Dinsmore books,...

Mildred's Married Life Cover image

Mildred's Married Life

Fairy Tale Novel
Family Marriage Children's novel Children Childhood Life America United States

The story is set in the United States of America between the 1830s and 1860s. Mildred is the eldest child of Stuart and Marcia Keith (née Stanhope), and has several younger siblings: Rupert, Zillah, Ada, Eva (who died at age five, before the first bo...

Ella Clinton Cover image

Ella Clinton

Passion Christianity Desire God

The Story of Ella Clinton who regardless of her desire to be good is ruled by her passions. Then one day she submits her desires to the only source of good - Almighty God. She is known to be His child by her fruits, for "By Their Fruits Ye shall know...

Mildred at Roselands Cover image

Mildred at Roselands

Romance Fiction Novel Religion
Truth Sacrifice Loyalty Friendship Challenges Happiness Betrayal Resilience Secret Intriguing Coming-of-age

At Roselands, a tranquil haven nestled amidst lush greenery, Mildred Keith's life unfolds with the promise of love, friendship, and happiness. But beneath the idyllic surface, a sinister secret lurks, threatening to shatter the peace and harmony that...

Elsie's New Relations Cover image

Elsie's New Relations

Fiction Novel
Family Love Historical Fiction Home Art Music Relationships Expectation

When Elsie Dinsmore is reunited with her long-lost relatives, she discovers that they are not what she expected. "Elsie's New Relations" is a novel by Martha Finley that tells the story of Elsie Dinsmore, a young orphan who is reunited with her long...

Elsie at Nantucket Cover image

Elsie at Nantucket

Fiction Novel
Family Mystery Treasure Thriller Courage Friends Criminals

Elsie Dinsmore is off on a new adventure, this time to the charming island of Nantucket! In Elsie at Nantucket, the tenth book in the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley, Elsie and her family spend the summer on the beautiful island of Nantucket....

Holidays at Roselands Cover image

Holidays at Roselands

This is the second book of the much loved Elsie Dinsmore series and starts where the first book left off. Elsie is still recuperating from her weakness, with her kind and indulgent father by her side. The story revolves around how a strong bond of l...

Elsie's Girlhood Cover image

Elsie's Girlhood

In the third book of Martha Finley's much-loved Elsie Dinsmore series, Elsie's life is traced from the tender age of 12 or 13 to the mature age of 21. Her life is not all sunshine and roses, but she is secure in the love of the Lord and her family. (...

Elsie's Womanhood Cover image

Elsie's Womanhood

The fourth book in the Elsie Dinsmore series, Elsie grows into a young woman. She marries her father's old friend, Edward Travilla, and together start a family. The latter half of the book occurs during the Civil War. (Summary by GabrielleC)

Elsie's Motherhood Cover image

Elsie's Motherhood

After the Civil War, Elsie and her family return to their home in the South, dealing with the upheaval that the Reconstruction Era brought during the years after the war. (Summary by Gabrielle C)

Elsie's Widowhood Cover image

Elsie's Widowhood

The seventh in the Elsie Dinsmore series, this book begins with the death of Elsie's beloved husband. As Elsie learns to live in widowhood, the story shifts to the lives of those most precious to her - her children and extended family. - Summary by K...

Grandmother Elsie Cover image

Grandmother Elsie

Change has come to Elsie's family in the 8th book of this delightful series. Her daughter, Violet, marries a naval Captain with three children of his own and the children try to adjust to life with their new step-mother and her family. - Summary by G...

Wanted - A Pedigree Cover image

Wanted - A Pedigree

Nina Clemmens was adopted as a baby. When her parents die, she goes to live with her religious aunt, who mistreats her because of her temper and her origin. Nina has been haunted by a woman in black for her whole life. She meets Dr. Monteith, who is...

Mildred Keith Cover image

Mildred Keith

Mildred Keith has a good life in Lansdale, Ohio - family, friends and school keep her happy and busy. But when her parents announce they're all moving to Indiana, Mildred's faith is tested beyond anything she could have imagined. Through good times a...

Mildred and Elsie Cover image

Mildred and Elsie

Mildred returns home from visiting her mother's relatives. She continues to grow in wisdom and beauty and receives many proposals of marriage. She is an ever-increasing blessing to her family and community. In-laws are added to the family, and they e...

Mildred at Home: With Something About Her Relatives and Friends Cover image

Mildred at Home: With Something About Her Relatives and Friends

Book 5 of the story of Mildred Keith by Martha Finley. We join Mildred as she settles into home life as wife and mother. We also see the rest of the Keith children begin to make starts of their own - some near to home, and others far away and perhap...

Mildred's New Daughter Cover image

Mildred's New Daughter

( .... ) - Summary by Michelle Hannah

Elsie's Vacation and After Events Cover image

Elsie's Vacation and After Events

Elsie and her family take a boat trip to visit wartime sites in NE USA. Illness, a son's departure and the willfulness of a daughter make for edifying lessons in moderation and consideration for others. - Summary by Czandra

Christmas With Grandma Elsie Cover image

Christmas With Grandma Elsie

This book is part of the Elsie Dinsmore series that was written by Martha Finley. The books focus on the life of Elsie Dinsmore and her family. Elsie is now a grown woman who has her own family. She married her childhood sweetheart Edward Travilla an...