Eleanor Hodgman Porter was born in December 1868, in Littleton, New Hampshire. She was trained as a singer, believing that her talent lay in singing. in 1892, she married John Lyman Porter, who was a businessman. the couple settled into a quiet life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after which she began writing and publishing her short stories and novels. Her first novel Cross-Currents: The Story of Margaret, was published in 1907. The book became popular enough to warrant a sequel and in the following year was released the Turn of the Tide: The Story of How Margaret Solved Her Problem (1908).
Her most famous novel, Pollyanna (1913), brought her considerable commercial success.
She died of pulmonary tuberculosis in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in May 1920 and was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.