Edith Wharton was born into wealth and privilege. Her father, George Frederic Jones, was a descendant of the Jones family, as in, “keeping up with the Joneses.” Yes, those Joneses.
She married well, and, if she’d been an ordinary woman of her time (she was born in 1862 and died in 1937), she would have been one of the ladies who lunch and shop and attend charity balls. Screw that.
Edith was an OMG. She knew that true happiness comes from a life filled with work and purpose. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 80 short stories and 20 novels.
She was the first woman awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Age of Innocence. She designed and built The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts, and authored books about interior and garden design. Her friends included Sinclair Lewis, Henry James, and other luminaries you may vaguely remember from English class.
She knew she was privileged and went to work for those who were not. When World War I broke out, she went to war-torn France, organized (and bankrolled) concerts to employ musicians and lift spirits, founded hospitals for the sick, and built hostels for homeless refugees.
She was a force to be reckoned with, as a writer, designer, and philanthropist. She set a sterling example of how Old Money should behave with regards to work and charity.
Edith Wharton kicked butt. You should, too.