On this date in 1839, Ouida, a novelist, animal rights activist and freethinker, was born Maria Louisa Ramé in Bury St. Edmunds, England. She derived her pen name Ouida from her own childish pronunciation of Louisa. She rivaled Dickens, Browning and George Eliot for salability on the Continent. She wrote more than 40 novels, as well as short stories, children’s books and essays.

A passionate animal lover and rescuer, she owned as many as 30 dogs at once. Ouida’s enduring collection of stories, A Dog of Flanders (1872), has been made into a movie five times. Her essay “The Failure of Christianity” was published in 1895 in her nonfiction book Views and Opinions. American author Jack London cited her novel Signa, which he read at age 8, as one of the main reasons for his literary success.

Under Two Flags, one of her most famous novels, described British life in Algeria and sympathized with French colonists and, to some extent, the Arabs. The novel was adapted for the stage and was filmed six times. She never married, and her lavish lifestyle eventually led to penury. She died at age 69 from pneumonia in Italy, where she had lived for some time. Friends organized a public subscription in Bury St. Edmunds, where they had a fountain for horses and dogs installed in her name. (D. 1908)

Freedom From Religion Foundation