Born in London to a wealthy middle-class English family, Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) enlivened a protected and dull childhood with pets and summer holidays in the outdoors of England's Lake District. Both her parents were amateur artists and they encouraged Beatrix to develop her drawing skills. Beatrix began painting and drawing her pets and making up stories about them at an early age. As she grew older, her interest in the natural world expanded to include fossil-hunting, photography, and the study of fungi. When she was thirty-one she submitted a paper about fungi to the Linnean Society of London titled "On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae." It had to be read to the Society by a male member because women could not attend its meetings.
Beatrix enjoyed writing letters to the children of her last governess, telling stories and illustrating them. It was one of these that became The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She began approaching publishers with her story, but when none would publish it, she paid for its publication herself in 1901. She next privately published The Tailor of Gloucester in 1902. Both were illustrated in black and white. Their popularity caught the attention of publisher Frederick Warne & Company, who persuaded Beatrix to republish her books through them, and to color her drawings. Over the years she published twenty-two children's books with Frederick Warne about farm and forest animals dressed in clothes and living in their own snug little homes.
When Beatrix was thirty-nine she became engaged to Norman Warne, her editor, but he died four weeks later of leukemia. With her royalties Beatrix had recently bought a working farm in the north of England, so she went there to recover from her grief, immersing herself in her love of nature. As her illustrated animal stories attained great success, she began buying nearby farms which she donated to the National Trust in her will in order to preserve the wild beauty of England's Lake District.
In 1913 she married a local solicitor, William Heelis. For the rest of her life she wrote children's books, drew and painted, and was a farmer, breeder, and conservationist. Beatrix Potter Heelis died in 1943 of a heart attack following severe bronchitis. Her body was cremated and her ashes spread on her land. By then her illustrated animal stories had gained an international success that has continued until today.