Frances Little was the pseudonym for Fannie Caldwell who was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky on November 22nd 1863.
Her early career was spent as a kindergarten teacher in Louisville, Kentucky from 1899 to 1902. However, she divorced her husband, the businessman James D. Macaulay, and decided to travel for both pleasure and work. In Japan she was the supervisor of normal classes, kindergartens, at Hiroshima, from 1902 to 1907.
Her debut book 'The Lady of the Decoration' in 1906 was a sensation becoming the best-selling book of 1907. It capitalized on both American interest and support for Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Set between 1901 and 1905, it takes the form of a series of letters written home. The main character is a young missionary kindergarten teacher in Hiroshima, Japan before and during the Russo-Japanese War.
As the 20th Century began most Americans knew little about Japan, and Little's novel, with perfect timing, presented a view of Japanese life that captured the imagination of its readers.
Its genesis began with the letters Caldwell wrote home to her niece, Alice Hegan Rice. It was Alice's idea to turn the letters into a book. She removed all the personal identifying details and created the pseudonym Frances Little. The title came from the children she taught who called her their 'Lady of the Decoration' every time she 'pinned on her little enameled watch'. Alice's editing had turned Fannie into a best-selling author.
Fannie eventually returned to Kentucky but continued to lecture on Japan and to write a number of other books.
On January 6th, 1941 Fannie passed away from influenza at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.