Wharton was born to very wealthy parents living in New York. Her father’s last name was ‘Jones’ and it is said that the phrase ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ refers to her family. She travelled frequently to Europe and enjoyed the wealth of New York society in what is called the ‘Gilded Age‘.
Wharton participated actively in upper class society for most of her adult lives. Her insider knowledge of New York ‘aristocracy’ was used to produce many of her most famous novels. Though she had been writing from a young age and had privately self-published some small works as a teenager, she did not publish her first novel until she was forty.
Wharton was married once, and the marriage ended in divorce and infidelity. She never stopped travelling, and was known to associate with many of the foremost literary figures of her time. During her career, she published 15 novels, many short stories, poetry, non-fiction, travel writing, and two unproduced plays. The Age of Innocence was given the Pulitzer Prize in 1920.
Wharton died of a heart attack in her French country home in 1937.