Edith Wharton's Potrait
Sagar Bhagirath

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The first woman to win the Pulitzer’s award is Edith Wharton. Her acknowledgement came in the year 1921 for her novel, The Age of Innocence.

Pulitzer’s award is the highest recognition given to the contribution of literature, online journalism, literature, magazine, and music composition in the United States. Wharton was the first woman to win the prestigious award for a fictional masterpiece.

Born in the riches, Wrote about the Riches!

Edith was born on 24th January 1862 in New York. While growing up, her families travelled across Europe due to the tensions of the Civil War. That resulted in young Edith picking up French, German, and Italian to her vocabulary. She was fond of reading from a very young age. She was critical of women being subjected only at the ball parties and was adamant to the standards of fashion and manners at that time. Edith wanted to learn more. Hence, she started reading from her father’s library collection. Her mother never motivated her to learn, as she wanted her daughter to excel at household chores.

At the age of 15, Edith translated a German poem which was later published in the Newspaper. Her family didn’t allow to put her name as author. Hence, they used one of their family friend’s name. During that period, the women’s names would only appear in the newspapers to announce birth, death, and marriage. By 1880 she had written many poems, out of which 5 were anonymously published. Her writing prowess went unrecognized for a major part of her youth, until 1889. Going against the dominating family circle, she published her poem, The Last Giustiniani. That marked the beginning of one of the most prevailing writers of that generation. She prioritized to write about how life sustained in the American high-class societies.

She married Edward Robbins Wharton in 1885 at the age of 23. They both shared similar passions in travelling and a high-end life. The couple owned many houses in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The Mount was one of their lovely decorated homes, which now serves as a Museum. Many literal masterpieces originated from the Mount. The luxurious home was also responsible for hosting high-class parties. Guests included special figures like Teddy Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Wharton; A figure worth plenty of recognition.

Not only she was an excellent writer and a novelist, but also, she had a passion as an interior designer. Her humanitarian side couldn’t stop her from being a working assistant at the World War I.

 Edith with WWI soldiers
Edith with WWI soldiers (Image source: edithwharton.org)

Her charitable work to help the homeless refugees won her the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. She edited a beautiful book meanwhile that concluded heart-breaking stories of the War around Europe. She returned to the United States, only when she was awarded the Pulitzer’s award for The Age of Innocence.


All the personal records and recognition couldn’t suffice the writer in her. She carried her passion for writing with her till her last breath. In her last few breaths, she wrote a note and floated that on the floor. Even the notes in her passing days, piled up to form a worthy book. Marion Mainwaring finally completed the Buccaneers in 1938. Marion concluded the series of notes synopsis to finish the last novel for Wharton after her death.

Edith Wharton wrote many novels during her prime. She is hailed by many experts because she dared to write about topics many in the industry were afraid to write about. Even after difficult circumstances and a delusive society around her, she marched against her odds to be the most successful writers of her time. Though her Pulitzer’s award is still criticized by many, her contributions to the literature fraternity are immense. She laid a stepping stone for other women to come forward and excel towards their passion.

Do you think Edith Wharton was ahead of her times? Do you think she was an inspiration for women back in those days, even today? Do comment your views, opinions and feedback.

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