Early Life & Family

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Flora Wellman

John Griffith London was born in San Francisco in 1876, to an unmarried mother, Flora Wellman.  His mother was suicidal and as an infant Jack was cared for by an ex-slave, Virginia Prentiss.  She who would remain a major figure in his young life.  In early 1877, Flora married John London, a partially disabled Civil War veteran. The family moved around the Bay Area before settling in Oakland, where Jack completed grade school. Though the family was working class, they were not as impoverished as he later claimed.

  • Flora Wellman Jack’s mother and his mentor in writing.  She was the daughter of a wealthy Ohio family, with a cultured upbringing, but lived modestly while raising Jack in San Francisco and later Oakland.  The family fortune was wiped-out in the panic of 1858.  She volunteered for the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, and by 1870 was living in Seattle.

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    John London
  • William Chaney  Flora claimed that Chaney was London’s biological father, but he denied the parentage.  Chaney was a  journalist, lawyer, and major figure in the development of American astrology.  Flora met Chaney in Seattle and the two had moved to San Francisco by 1874.  The couple broke up over her pregnancy when she refused to have an abortion; this also led to her 1875 suicide attempt, while pregnant with Jack.
  • John London, A disabled Civil War veteran who married Flora, adopted Jack,  and supported them during Jack’s youth.  He was a carpenter and entrepreneur with two young daughters when they married.  He and Flora made a living through various means, including farming, running a boarding house, and teaching.  John died while Jack was in Alaska in the late 1890s.
  • Virginia “Jenny” Prentiss,  A former slave helped raise Jack and was influential in his life.
  • Eliza Shepard - step sister
    Eliza Shepard

    Eliza London Shepard, Jack’s step-sister, was his close friend and later business andranch manager.

  • Ina Coolbrith, was an American poet, writer, librarian, and a prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area literary community.  She was instrumental as a teacher and mentor of a young Jack London, encouraging him to read and write, and offering a positiveoutlet for his often problematic energies.
  • Elizabeth “Bess” Maddern London, Jack’s first wife.  They met through a friend of his, who was her fiance.   She tutored him in math while he was preparing for exams to get into Cal Berkeley.  They later became involved after her fiance was killed in 1898.
  • Charmian Kittredge London, She became Jack’s second wife after a brief love affair and his divorce.  She was the Niece of Netta Eames, his mentor and editor.  Charmian held progressive views of politics and sexuallity.  The two collaborated as writers and had many adventures together.
  • Joan London, Jack’s older daughter who shared his socialist politics and activism.
  • Becky London Fleming, Jack’s younger daughter who was less involved in his life.
  • Netta Eames, Charmian’s aunt and effectively her mother.  She was an author and editor for Overland Monthly, the first magazine to publish Jack’s work.  Netta introduced Jack to Glen Ellen and was his neighbor after he bought Beauty Ranch.  She was also his business manager when he and Charmian sailed on the Snark.