Edith Wharton 1862-1937

Born New York City


In her novels and short stories, Edith Wharton probed the effects of modernity on the lives of the urban elite, paying particular attention to the challenges women faced. Although she was often critical of the tradition-bound past, she was likewise wary of the disruptions brought forth by realignments in social mores and expectations. Her probing fiction derived much of its power from this tension between old and new. Ben-Yusuf’s portrait shows Wharton in her late thirties, during an important transitional moment in her life – a period marked by a new sense of self-confidence as a writer and an independent woman. She had recently published her first collection of short stories and was then beginning work on her first novel, The House of Mirth, a tragic tale of a young woman’s fall from grace within elite New York society.

Platinum print, c. 1901
Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University