Julia Magruder was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, the daughter of a prominent lawyer and his wife. Her paternal uncle was a Confederate general. The family split its time between Virginia and Washington, D.C. She was educated by her parents and by governesses. At age 18, she published her first short story in the Baltimore Sun and won a $300 prize. She went on to write 16 novels -- many illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson -- sketches, stories for children, and short stories. Her first important work, Across the Chasm (1885), was published anonymously in Ladies' Home Journal. She traveled widely in Europe and had a vast circle of friends that included Amélie Rives, the novelist and poet, at whose homes she did some of her writing. Julia also wrote essays on serious social issues, such as child labor laws and the changing roles of women in the early 20th century.