Johanna Heusser had three brothers and three sisters, but one brother died as
a small child. Johanna Heusser grew up in a sheltered upper class family
environment, but also deeply rooted in a small rural community. At the age of
14 she was sent to the city of Zurich, where she lived with her aunt and could
attend a high school. Two years later, she was sent to a residential school
in the French-speaking city of Yverdon, western Switzerland - a typical choice
for an upper class Swiss family at the time.
After graduation she returned home, helped her mother, taught her little
siblings and read a lot. Politically, these years were quite turbulent in
Switzerland with a short civil war between conservatives and liberals in 1847
followed by the foundation of a modern, democratic, federal national state with
national parliament and government replacing a loose confederacy of small
territories. Seen on this background, staying in Hirzel with her parents might
have been a choice for safety.