Susanna Haswell Rowson was born in Portsmouth, England, of a family which produced several British and American naval officers and at least two other authors, her cousin Anthony Haswell and her brother, Lieut. Robert Haswell (F. W. Howay, Washington Historical Quarterly, April 1933). Her mother, Susanna Musgrave (or Musgrove), died giving birth to her daughter. When the child was about five, her father, Lieut. William Haswell, who was stationed in Massachusetts and had remarried there, returned to England for her; and the clearest recollection of her childhood was that of the stormy passage, ending in shipwreck, vividly narrated in her novel Rebecca. Her girlhood was happily spent at her father's home in Nantasket, where at ten she surprised their summer neighbor, James Otis, by her familiarity with Spenser, Shakespeare, and Homer and Virgil in Pope's and Dryden's translations. In 1775 her father's estate was confiscated and his family interned at Hingham and later Abington, until he was exchanged in 1778 and they all returned to England.