Born: January 24, 1862, in New York City, New York, United States
Died: August 11, 1937, in St.-Brice-sous- ForÍt, France
Edith Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones to a wealthy family. At an early age she acquired a love for proper English, and good manners. Her parents, who traveled extensively, were very socially active. Edith obtained her education from private tutors and developed a passion for literature. Soon Edith was writing her own stories and poetry for magazines.
In 1885 she married a Boston banker named Edward Wharton. His mental breakdown put a strain on their marriage and they were divorced in 1913.
The Greater Inclination, an early collection of short stories, was published in 1899. The novels The Valley of Decision, published in 1902, and The House of Mirth, published in 1905, soon followed. The success of the latter established her literary reputation.
The influence of her mentor Henry James is apparent in many of Wharton's works. Her stories often dealt with ethical issues concerning social status. In 1907, perhaps following in James' footsteps, she moved abroad and settled permanently in France.
Wharton's most acclaimed work, Ethan Frome, was published in 1911. Other novels include: The Reef, (1912); The Custom of the Country, (1913); Summer, (1917); and the Pulitzer prize-winning Age of Innocence, (1920). She also went on to write more short stories and poems. Near the end of her life she contributed a large amount of work to women's magazines. At the time of her death, she had been honored more times for her work than any other woman in the history of the United States.