After graduating from her stepfather’s academy, she taught for five years before marrying Frederick Southworth. When her husband abandoned her while pregnant with their second child in 1844, she resumed her teaching career.
Earning only $250 a year, Southworth started submitting stories to magazines which led to her first novel Retribution. Retribution met with much success and she became a full-time writer. She wrote 12 best selling novels over the next seven years. By 1857 she was making $10,000 a year through her serials.
Her most popular work is The Hidden Hand (1888), which was serialized three times before being published as a novel.
In all, Southworth wrote over 60 novels, many translated into other languages.
Also a supporter of women’s rights, Southworth wasn’t as active on the issue as other activists. However, many of the characters in her novels were witty and rebellious women, defying the usual Victorian conventions of femininity.
Some of Southworth’s work online.