Women’s History Month: Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton may not have published her first novel until she was 40 years old, but she was a prolific writer who actually began writing poetry and fiction as a young girl, even writing a novella at age eleven. Publishing was seen as something women, especially those of her class, didn’t do (their goal was supposed to be obtaining a “good” marriage) so even though she continued to write and publish — in secret, privately, and anonymously or under another name — she was much older when she finally became known as a writer.

Later in her life, living in Paris when World War I broke out, Wharton used her status and wealth to establish workrooms for unemployed seamstresses, convalescent homes for tuberculosis sufferers, hostels for refugees, and schools for children fleeing war-torn Belgium.

In addition to her fifteen novels, seven novellas, and eighty-five short stories, Wharton published poetry, books on design, travel, literary and cultural criticism, and a memoir. Her novel The Age of Innocence won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making Wharton the first woman to win the award. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. Besides being the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize, she also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 

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