Johanna Louise Heusser was born on June 12, 1827 in Hirzel, Switzerland. She was one of six children in a household where music and books were revered. She was educated at school and at home, finally being sent to Zurich at age 14 to study modern languages and piano. There, she met a friend of her brother’s, Bernhard Spyri, a law student. They were married when Johanna was 25.
Her husband became the city clerk of Zurich, so they stayed on, even though Johanna was lonesome for her home town in the country. In 1884, her well-known book, Heidi, was published and met with immediate success. Sadly, her husband and son both died in that same year. Johanna Spyri stayed on in Zurich, bringing a niece to live with her. She wrote more than 50 stories for children and adults before she died in 1901. Frau Spyri is so beloved in Switzerland that one of their coins bears her image.