A fashion journalist, she also wrote several popular novels intended for young women, including The Misdemeanors of Nancy and For Love of Mary Ellen.
She began as a fashion writer for the New York Sun. Early in her career, she also contributed to Ladies Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post.
Her books focused on brave adolescent women, often orphaned, who overcame great adversity.
Her parents, Louisa Smith and Walter Hoyt, were prominent abolitionists. She married attorney Charles Brainerd in 1904.
Her most popular novel, How Could You, Jean?, was made into a silent film starring Mary Pickford.