Johanna Spyri

Johanna Spyri [ ʃpi ː ri ], native Johanna Louise Heusser ( born June 12, 1827 in Hirzel, Canton Zurich, † July 7, 1901 in Zurich ) was a Swiss youth writer and creator of the famous fictional character Heidi.


Spyri was the fourth of six children of the physician Johann Jakob Heusser and Heusser poet meta - Swiss. She grew up in Hirzel on, a village in the canton of Zurich in the room mountain above Lake Zurich. At the age of 15 she moved in with her ​​aunt in Zurich, where she attended school. In the summer of 1844, she spent two years in a boarding school in Yverdon, to learn French. A year later she came back and lived until the age of 25 in Hirzel. She taught her younger siblings and helped the mother in the household.

1851 she became engaged with the Zurich lawyer and editor Bernhard Spyri ( 1821-1884 ), who belonged to the inner circle of friends of Richard Wagner in Zurich. The wedding took place in the church Wollishofen on September 9, 1852. The first apartment of the couple was on the Stadelhoferstrasse 22 retail Baumwollenhof.

At the age of 21 years painting her friend Anna Fries.

Bernhard Spyri and Johanna Heusser 1852

With son Bernhard

1855 came Spyri's only child, her son Bernhard Diethelm to the world. During pregnancy Johanna fell into a deep depression that lasted for years. In September, the family moved to the Hirschgraben 10 into the house to lie Hirschli. Three years later acquired Bernhard Spyri on Hirschgraben 6 the Bremer Haus. After his appointment as town clerk in 1868, the family moved to the town house Kratzplatz.

The Marriage of Spyri was not really happy. Johanna Spyri liked the housework not, Bernhard Spyri worked a lot and was often absent. Maintenance was Johanna in her deep friendship with Betsy Meyer, sister of Conrad Ferdinand Meyer.

Bremer time

Her mother was related to the Bremen Johann Wichelhausen and friends of the Church of Our Lady Bremen Cornelius Rudolph Vietor with the Bremen lawyer Hans Heinrich Spöndlin (1812-1872) and the pastor about her husband ( 1814-1897 ). This suggested Spyri to be the first to write. Johanna visited him in Bremen and Vietor talked often on in Zurich and gave his daughters for a year in the Spyri family. Pastor Victor caused them some uplifting stories in Bremen by the printers Hilgerloh and then CE To print and publish Müller. Her first story, " A leaf on Vrony 's grave " was published in 1871 in Bremen and was a great success. For today's taste, it is an unpalatable story about a woman who is abused by her drunken husband and praying adds to their fate, as the pastor advised her. This was followed in Bremen stories, " After the Father's house ", " From the early days ," " none of your Lost " and " lost and found ". The stories were published under the pseudonym JS and were not very successful.

Town clerk in Zurich

1875 " Women Writers Spyri » appointed to the Supervisory Commission of Higher Girls' School in Zurich, where she worked until 1892.

Her first children's book, " homeless " contained the stories, " On Lake Sils and Lake Garda " and " How Wiseli 's path is found " and published in 1878 in FA Perthes in Gotha. As an author Johanna Spyri was not specified, but "From the author of " A leaf on Vrony 's grave " ." For the first time found himself on the cover of the note " A story for children and also for Those who have children dear ," which can be found on almost every issue Spyri.

Success with Heidi

Shortly before Christmas 1879, also appeared in FA Perthes Heidi's apprentice and journeyman years, which was a great success immediately and Johanna Spyri facilitated a very comfortable retirement. 1881 was followed by the second volume Heidi can do what it has learned. "Heidi" has been translated into more than 50 languages. The book has been filmed several times. Disputed the assertion of Germanists Peter Büttner (2010), Johanna Spyri 's got the story " Adelaide, the girl from the Alps Mountains " ( 1830) by Hermann Adam von Kamp used as a template of their "Heidi" books.

In April 1885 Spyri drew for a year at the Bahnhofstrasse 48, corner Augustinian alley, then into the Escher houses on the Zeltweg 9, where she lived until her death.

During her last years she wrote and traveled a lot. With Conrad Ferdinand Meyer they had regularly amicable and professional contact. When she developed cancer in 1901, she let herself be treated from the first Swiss doctor Marie Heim- Vögtlin. Johanna Spyri was buried in the cemetery Sihlfeld Zurich.


  • Husband Bernhard Spyri, son of Johann Bernhard Spyri of Amlikon, 1844 citizens of Hirzel, 1854 citizens of Zurich, was born on 21 September 1821. He was a lawyer, attorney and editor of the " Swiss newspaper ". He was twice a member of the cantonal and 1859-1868 Legal Counsel of the City of Zurich. Bernhard Spyri died on 19 December 1884 in Zurich.
  • Son Bernhard Spyri Diethelm was born on August 17, 1855 in Zurich. After studying law in Zurich, Leipzig and Göttingen, he was secretary of the Mercantile Company in Zurich. Study and work were repeatedly interrupted by illness spa stays in Davos and other places. 1881/1882, he traveled to Argentina to his uncle Christian Heusser, his mother's brother. 1883/1884 he recovered on Lake Maggiore in Pisa. Bernhard Spyri Diethelm died on 3 May 1884 tuberculosis.

Bernhard Spyri Diethelm

Johanna Spyri 1890

Birthplace in Hirzel

Spyri's residence at Zeltweg

Tomb of Johanna Spyri in the cemetery Sihlfeld


In the thirty years from 1871 to her death Spyri published 31 books, 27 short stories and four brochures, a total of 48 stories. Her estate was kept first at the Swiss Institute for Child and Youth Media ( SIKJM ) in Zurich; in September 2011 were more than 1000 letters, manuscripts, notes, and documents over to the Central Library Zurich.

Many books and articles from her cast a critical, nothing euphemistic look at Switzerland and on the living conditions of the people during the early industrialization. In particular, the fate of the children and young women was close to her heart. Your texts are therefore not only of literary but also social history interest.