Edith Wharton

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Back in France, during the early days of World War I, Ms. Wharton saw the suffering of the sick and the homeless. Almost immediately, she began to do Red Cross work; she even provided a place for women who could sew clothing for the needy. To excite American interest in the plight of the French, she made six trips to the battle lines and then wrote an account of the hospital needs of the wounded. A woman with a tender heart for the sufferings of others, Mrs. Wharton and her many helpers cared for thousands of war refugees and several large groups of the young and the aged, as well as maintaining four sanatoriums for women and children were victims of tuberculosis. Her heroic was efforts were recognized by France in 1915 when she was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor. Belgium, in 1916, made her Chevalier (knight)of the Order of Leopold.

To help obtain money for war relief work, Mrs. Wharton put together The Book of the Homeless, made up of original poems, articles, and ! drawings donated by some of the leading members of the literary and artistic world in Europe and America. In addition to all of her other demanding duties at the time, Ms. Wharton translated into English the great majority of the Italian and French contributions to the book. Her great understanding and sympathy for France and the French people are seen in the works written during the years centering around World War I: Fighting France (1915), The Marne (1918), and French Ways and Their Meaning (1919).

When World War I was over, Edith Wharton busied herself with the writing of what turned out to be one of her greatest novels, The Age of Innocence. She alternated between her two homes in France. After a 1926 yacht trip in the Mediterranean Sea, she lived quietly in France for the remainder of her days. She wrote constantly, but her later work never achieved the sharp and sensitive flavor of her earlier, popular novels. She died in St. Brice, France, August 11, 1937, and was buried at Versailles in the Protestant cemetery.

Edith Wharton's works have ranged over considerable literary ground. She has published literary works in ten categories: a study of interior decoration; short stories; poetry; a historical romance; novels; novelettes; travel books; a book of war impressions; literary criticism; and autobiography. Although she has been highly commended for all of her published works, her greatest achievement is undoubtedly in the area of the novel, featuring such literary masterworks as The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and the Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton made a great impression on the literary scene of the 1900's and her presence is still felt today.