Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton was born in San Francisco, California, on October 30, 1857. After the divorce of her parents, Horn went to live on the San Jose ranch of her maternal grandfather, where she was introduced to literature. Atherton attended St. Mary's Hall school, and spent a year at the Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky. In February of 1876 she eloped with George H.B. Atherton. Her life at the Atherton estate was an unhappy one. She managed to write a novel, The Randolphs of Redwoods, based on a local society scandal, which was published serially in the San Francisco Argonaut in 1882, and which outraged the family. In 1887, her husband died and Atherton was free to travel to New York City and then to England and continental Europe in 1895. She quickly produced books set in Europe or old California. Her work drew mixed reviews, with the exception of The Conqueror, published in 1902, an account of the life of Alexander Hamilton, which won her critical acclaim and became a best-seller. Her controversial novel Black Oxen, published in 1923, was based on Atherton's own experiences with hormone therapy, and was her biggest popular success. Atherton wrote more than 40 novels in her career, as well as many nonfiction works. Most of her novels feature strong-willed, independent heroines. Adventures of a Novelist, published in 1932 was an autobiography. Gertrude Atherton died in San Francisco on June 14, 1948.