Eliza Frances Andrews—Fanny, as she was known to friends—was a writer, educator and botanist.
Born in 1840 in Washington, Georgia, Fanny was the daughter of Judge Garnett and Annulet Ball Andrews. In the Andrews home, Fanny had access to newspapers, books and magazines, and was encouraged to participate in discussions of national and local political issues.
Completing high school at LaGrange Female College in 1857, Fanny remained at home and wrote intermittently for various newspapers. In 1864 she started the diary that would eventually be published as The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl (1864-1865). Widely read for its lively style, historians consider it an important book for the insights it offers into the experience and sentiments of many Southern women during the Civil War and early Reconstruction.
Writing was Fanny’s passion. Over the course of her lifetime she produced novels, poems and botany texts, as well as serials, articles, essays and editorials for more than 70 magazines and newspapers. Her first article for national publication was a political piece appearing in an 1865 edition of the New York World. In it she assumed the guise of a male writer, because women writers were uncommon at the time and often not taken seriously. In other writings she adopted the pseudonym “Elzey Hay.”
By 1870 the South’s economy was in decline from the Civil War. As family finances became strained, Fanny embarked on a career in education. First teaching at Washington Seminary in her hometown, in 1872 she moved to Yazoo, Mississippi, where she taught and later served as superintendent. The journal she kept during these years wouldn’t be discovered and published until decades later.
Returning to Washington in 1874, Fanny opened the Select School for Girls with a cousin. Two years later, in 1876, A Family Secret was published. It was her first novel. In it she told the story of a woman struggling to maintain independence while achieving artistic fulfillment, establishing a theme that would appear again in two later novels. It was a theme close to Fanny’s heart, having vowed as a young woman to never marry and forfeit her freedom.
From 1874 to 1881 Fanny taught and later served as principal at the Select School. In these years she also joined the Georgia Teachers Association and served as vice president and chair of various committees. In 1879 her second novel, A Mere Adventurer, was published. It was followed three years later by a third and final novel, Prince Hal; or, The Romance of a Rich Young Man.
In 1885 Fanny accepted a position at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, teaching literature and French and also working in the library. Three years earlier the college had awarded her an A.M. Honorary Second Degree.
Toward the end of her decade-long tenure at Wesleyan—the longest association she would have with any single institution—Fanny began a lecture circuit and frequently wrote for periodicals.
By 1900, Fanny returned again to Washington and began teaching high school Science. Turning serious attention to one of her lifelong interests—botany—she spent a summer immersed in research at Johns Hopkins University. In 1903 her first textbook, Botany All the Year Round, was published. It was a simple, practical book especially useful in rural schools which seldom had laboratories or supplies.
In 1911 Fanny’s second, more advanced textbook was published. A culmination of six years of study in Alabama, the text was aimed at high school and college students and titled A Practical Course in Botany. Having spent time at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute editing the text and working with other botanists, Fanny donated more than 3,000 plant specimens she had collected with Dr. A. W. Chapman to the Alabama Department of Agriculture.
The “Remarkable Behavior of a Veteran White Oak” was published in 1926. It was Fanny’s last article. That same year she became the first American woman invited into the prestigious International Academy of Literature and Science in Italy. Due to age, however, she had to decline an invitation to Naples to address the Academy.
Fanny died in Rome, Georgia, on January 21, 1931. She was 90 years old. She is buried in Resthaven Cemetery in her hometown of Washington.