Born on this day in 1862, Edith Wharton was born into a respectable New York society family. She was related to the Rensselaers and her father (George Frederic Jones) came from the family after which the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” reputedly was based. Having entrance to New York society, Edith proved a keen observer of their ways—and used these observations in her many novels, poems, and short stories.
Amongst her most-famous works are Ethan Frome, The
House of Mirth, and The Age of Innocence—for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, the first woman to do so. She was also an accomplished interior and garden designer, and wrote books on the subject. She travelled extensively and befriended the cream of the Turn-of-the-Century literary world: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide. She was also a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt.
Wharton spent the last two decades of her life in France, both in Paris and in her Castel Sainte-Claire in Provence. After WWI, she only returned to the States once—to accept an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1923. Edith Warton died in France on 11 August 1937 and is buried in the American cemetery at Versailles.
The young maiden, pictured above, personifies Innocence. Made of terracotta in post-War Germany, she sits peacefully, forever contemplating grace and beauty.