(Mar. 10, 1840-Feb. 18, 1914). Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, an Indianapolis native, attended the Third Ward School and the city’s first high school in University Square, where she demonstrated a flair for composition and art. She married Samuel Osbourne in 1857. With Samuel, she had three children. She embarked with her children for Europe in 1875 to study art when her marriage with Samuel turned sour. While residing at Grez, France, an artists’ colony, she met the author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Frances Van de Grift Stevenson, ca. 1910s
Credit: Library of Congress

Fanny returned to the United States in 1879 and divorced Osbourne in January 1880. On May 19, 1880, Fanny and Stevenson married. They began a nomadic life seeking a climate that would benefit Robert’s delicate health, eventually settling on Upolu, Samoa. Fanny collaborated with Robert as critic, muse, and nurse until his death in 1894, after which she returned to the United States.

Shortly after the completion of her book, The Cruise Of The “Janet Nichol” (1914), she suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. Fanny’s ashes were buried on Mt. Vaea, Samoa, beside Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave. Her account of life in the Pacific, Our Samoan Adventure (1955), was published posthumously.

Revised July 2021

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