Edith Wharton Biography

Edith Wharton Biography

Edith Wharton became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature for her novel The Age of Innocence (1921). Although wealthy and female, she was also one of the few American civilians who traveled to the front lines in France during World War I. She wrote a series of articles about that experience, and in 1916 was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. She remained in France until her death in 1937, but she did return to the United States on one occasion to get an honorary doctorate degree from Yale. Despite the time she spent away from the United States, Edith Wharton is celebrated for her novels that perfectly captured (and gently criticized) the upper class in America.

Facts and Trivia

  • “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase coined about Edith Wharton’s family. She was born Edith Newbold Jones, and her privileged lifestyle inspired many of her finest works.
  • Wharton had many influential ancestors, including Ebenezer Stevens, who participated in the Boston Tea Party.
  • Wharton once said this about the critical response to her writing: “After all, one knows one’s weak points so well that it’s rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them and invent others.”
  • Wharton was divorced from her husband in 1913, but rather than view a divorce as scandalous she saw it as a “diploma of virtue.”
  • Wharton was working on a novel, The Buccaneers, at the time of her death. The unfinished novel was published in 1938, and a version completed by author Marion Mainwaring was published in 1993.
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