Edith Wharton: Biography

Edith Wharton

24 jan 1862

Writing in the early half of the 20th century, and through the troubles in Paris through the First World War, Edith Wharton is still a famous and respected American author. Edith Wharton was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize, for her novel The Age of Innocence, which deals with life in New York City during the 1870s. Edith Wharton’s most well-read work, Ethan Frome, is still on the English curriculum of many secondary schools today.

Born to a rich family, Edith Wharton married her husband, Edward, with whom she shared a love of travel. The couple spent at least four months of every year travelling through Europe, and Edith Wharton crossed the Atlantic more than 60 times in her life. The marriage, however, was not a success, and many of Edith Wharton’s novels and stories deal with broken marriages and couples in disagreement.

After her divorce, Edith Wharton moved permanently to Paris, where she remained throughout the duration of the First World War. Edith Wharton dedicated herself to helping the French war effort, and offered opportunities for women, especially refugees from Belgium, to work at sewing in her house for one Franc a day. Despite these stressful times, she continued to write numerous novels and short stories.

Edith Wharton was close friends with the critically acclaimed American writer Henry James, whose writing influenced Edith Wharton’s, and who encouraged her to write. She was a well known figure in the upper class and literary circles of America, receiving famous figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Theodore Roosevelt at the home she had designed herself in Massachusetts, called The Mount. Edith Wharton died of a heart attack in 1937.