During a sickly childhood during which Emily Haven experienced several months-long periods of blindness, she alternated between attending school and listening to her aunt read aloud to her, developing a remarkable talent for remembering long passages of poetry after hearing it read only once. Her friend "dared" her to submit a short story to Neal's Saturday Gazette and Lady's Literary Museum in Philadelphia, and the magazine's owner, Joseph C. Neal, responded warmly, publishing the story and praising its author's intelligence and originality. As she continued to send him her work under the pseudonym "Alice G. Lee," he mentored her writing, steering her away from the witty sarcasm that he thought detracted from her stories. Eventually their correspondence grew into a romance, and they married in 1846. At his request – he admired her Scottish-sounding pen name – she adopted the name Alice permanently.
Joseph Neal died six months after their wedding, and his widow remained popular among Philadelphia's literati, writing for Neal's Gazette to support herself. She took over the children's section of the paper, calling it "The Bird's Nest" and writing under the name "Cousin Alice." Continuing her success with simple, moralistic stories for children, she contracted with D. Appleton & Company to publish a series called "Home Books." Distributed by missionaries for use as Sunday school texts, many of her stories achieved a multi-continental readership.
In 1953 she married broker Samuel Haven and moved with him to rural New York, where she struggled against consumptive illness and bore five children. She died shortly after the birth of the fifth child, and her final work, a journal of her spiritual life entitled The Good Report, sold very well after its 1867 publication.
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