SARAH SMITH (1832-1911) was born in Wellington, England. She had the good fortune of being able to read books from her father's bookshop, a printer of evangelical literature. Her mother was a strong evangelical, but died when Sarah was young.
In the March 19th, 1859 issue of Household Words, a publication conducted by Charles Dickens, she published her first short story called The Lucky Leg. It is an intriguing story about a man who wanted to marry a woman with a missing leg. It was more secular, but her talent was recognized. Hesba Stretton became her pen name, Stretton coming from the name of a neighboring village, and Hesba coming from the initials of her siblings. H (Hannah or some sources Harriett), E (Elizabeth), S (Sarah), B (Benjamin), and A (Annie).
She wrote Jessica's First Prayer in 1867, which became one of her most beloved stories. It sold very well and was translated into many languages. Other best sellers were Little Meg's Children and Alone in London. She was familiar with her subject matter and the plight of street children. She visited and helped many children in disadvantaged situations. She kept a simple life unencumbered with worldly possessions. She wrote over 60 books and stories.
Jessica's Mother (illustrated)
1832 - She was born in Wellington, Shropshire.
1858 - Began writing living at home at age 26.
1863 - Sarah, a writer, and sister Elizabeth, a governess, move to Manchester.
1867 - Sarah and Elizabeth move to London.
1892 - Bought a house at Ivycroft, on Ham Common near Richmond in Surrey. Sarah and Elizabeth live here until the end of their lives.
1911 - Buried at St. Andrews, Ham Common.
Father - Benjamin Smith, was a printer, bookseller and post-office worker.
Mother - Anne Bakewell Smith, evangelical, died when Sarah was 9.
Anne - sister Anne owned a house in All Stretton. Sarah visited Anne and her nieces and nephews in All Stretton.
Elizabeth - sister and lifelong companion. Changed her name to Elizabeth Stretton.
Hannah or some sources Harriet - sister, oldest sibling and housekeeper.
Benjamin - moved to Canada, then Kansas, lay preacher.
James - died in 1833.
William, Charles and mother Anne all died in 1842, a tragic year.
Day school for girls run by Mrs. Cranage at the Old Hall in Watling Street.
Reading in her father's bookshop.
Campaigned in 1889 for the first Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, subsequently known as the Children's Charter.
Campaigned with Baroness Miss Burdett-Coutts to help form L.S.P.C.C. then N.S.P.C.C. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Partnered with Benjamin Waugh - a co-campaigner for reform of the juvenile justice system. Waugh wrote: The Gaol Cradle: Who Rocks it? (1873).
Collected money for Russian peasants during the Russian famine of 1892.
Hesba Stretton visited:
- Courts and Assizes
- Child refuges
- Charity hospitals
- Soup kitchens
- Juvenile work schemes
- Inner slums
Social Reform Books:
SOCIAL REFORM CAUSE
The horrors of the Siege at Strasburg
Highway of Sorrow
Suffering of the Russian Stundist peasants.
In Prison and Out
Juvenile Prison Reform
In the Hollow of His Hand
The treatment of Russian Stundists
Under the Old Roof
Married Women's Property Acts
Nelly's Dark Days
For a complete works listing see Hesba Stretton's Book Descriptions.
For a non-fiction articles listing see Hesba Stretton's Non-fiction Articles.
Books and Stories by Hesba Stretton:
A Green Bay Tree.
Ally Transome; or Faithful in Little.
An Acrobat's Girlhood.
Bible Apocrypha. Selections. English Good Words from the Apocrypha.
Brought Home. [A tale.]
Carola. [A tale.]
Clives of Burcot (The). [A novel.]
David Lloyd's Last Will.
Doctor's Dilemma (The).
Facts on a Thread of Fiction: In Prison and Out.
Fishers of Derby Haven (The).
Friends till Death.
Gospel Story for Young People (The).
Hester Morley's Promise.
Highway of Sorrow (The) at the Close of the Nineteenth Century.
In the Hollow of His Hand: A Story of the Stundists.
King's Servants (The) I. Faithful in Little. II. Unfaithful. III. Faithful in Much.
Lord's Purse-Bearers (The).
Mrs. Burton's Best Bedroom, and Other Stories, etc.
No Work No Bread. [A tale.]
Old Transome. (The first 9 chapters of Ally Transome.)
Only a Dog. [A story.]
Papers on the Parables.
Parables of Our Lord (The).
Paul's Courtship. [A novel.]
Soul of Honour (The).
Sweet Story of Old (The): A Sunday Book for the Little Ones.
Ray of Sunlight (The); or, Jack Stafford's Resolve, and other readings.
Thoughts on Old Age: Good Words from Many Minds.
Through a Needle's Eye.
Two Christmas Stories.
Wonderful Life (The); [The Life of Christ.] [The Wonderful Story of Christ.] The Child's Life of Christ
1. The Lucky Leg. March 19, 1859 issue of Household Words conducted by Charles Dickens.
2. The Ghost in the Clock Room. Chapter 2 in The Haunted House, the 1859 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.
3. Another Past Lodger Relates Certain Passages to Her Husband. Chapter 6 in Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy, the 1864 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.
4. Not to Be Taken For Granted. Chapter 4 of Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, the 1865 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.
5. No. 4 Branch Line. The Travelling Post Office. Chapter 7 of Mugby Junction, the 1866 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.
Cutt, Margaret Nancy. (1979) Ministering Angels: A Study of Nineteenth-century Evangelical Writing for Children. Wormley, England: Five Owls Press.
Lomax, Elaine. (2009) The Writings of Hesba Stretton: Reclaiming the Outcast. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Rickard, Suzanne L. G. (1996) Living by the Pen: Hesba Stretton's Moral Earnings, Women's History Review, Vol. 5, No. 2.
Walker, Alicia A. (1977) Alone in London: Nineteenth-Century Street Children in Novels by Charles Dickens and Hesba Stretton. Thesis. Emporia State University.