Today would have been the 151st birthday of my favorite author and the inspiration for the title of this blog, Edith Wharton. I found this list online of reasons why she is “a badass.” While I don’t disagree with them, I think there are other aspects of her life that were left off the list, and I wanted to make one of my own. I could go on and on about Ms. Wharton, but I will be brief. J
She valued learning and education.
Yes, she grew up in a privileged household that provided her with more opportunities than most girls had. But, that aside, Wharton was an exceptional student and greatly valued learning and expanding her mind. Even as she got older, she was constantly reading and traveling, meeting new people and learning new things. She loved words and ideas and discussing them with others, as do I.
She was a strong, independent woman who challenged social standards.
Virtually all of Wharton’s writing addresses inequalities in social strata and the social expectations of men and women. Her stories challenge the status quo at the time she was writing, describing men who choose love over business, women who desire love and sex without marriage and children, and men and women who desire to befriend or bed those outside their social stratum. But Wharton didn’t just write about these dynamics, she lived them, too.
She achieved many firsts for women.
She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer prize for The Age of Innocence in 1921. Read it, you won’t regret it. Don’t watch the movie, you will regret it.
She was also the first woman to be accepted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was the first woman to receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale.
She was a woman of many talents.
Not only did Wharton start publishing her work before the age of 18 and go on to have a successful, lifelong career as a writer, but she was also accomplished at:
– Research and academia; she traveled Italy researching villas
– Correspondence; she was an eloquent and avid letter-writer and kept in touch with all her friends
– Design; she designed and decorated her home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
She was altruistic.
Even after they were divorced, she ensured the financial and medical stability of her former husband Teddy, who had basically gone batshit crazy. On a more serious note, she used her extensive finances during WWI to provide medical aid and housing for refugees and jobs for women.
She loved dogs.
The woman was crazy about dogs. She had several throughout the course of her life and loved to cuddle with them.
“My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.” ~Edith Wharton
It seems Wharton and I have much in common.
In conclusion, Edith Wharton was a visionary. She opened doors in the literary world and the world in general for women and set many standards. Her passion for learning, writing, equality, friends, altruism, and dogs, among other things, makes her someone I hold in high esteem as a role model. Every time I read or re-read one of her works I am in awe at her talent and ability to write about issues that continue to be relevant today.