An American novelist and short story writer known for the coastal Maine settings of her books, she published such works as The Country of the Pointed Firs (novella), A Country doctor (autobiographical novel), and A White Heron (short story collection). Her other works include poetry and children's books.
She studied at Miss Olive Rayne's school and, later, at Berwick Academy. When she was just nineteen years old, she published a short story in the Atlantic Monthly.
She is associated with the literary movement known as local color.
She grew up in Maine as the daughter of a physician. She never married; however, her extremely close friendship with fellow author, Annie Fields, may have become romantic following the death of Fields' husband.
She and John Neal were both born in Maine.