Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Maria Edgeworth

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English School, Maria Edgeworth, 18th century. Birmingham City Archives

Maria Edgeworth
b. 1767, Blackbourton, Oxfordshire, England; d. 1849, Edgeworthstown, Ireland

Maria Edgeworth, a novelist and advocate for women's education, was born in England but moved to Ireland in 1782 at the age of fifteen. Influenced by her father's progressive ideas, her first published work, Letters for Literary Ladies (1795), is a plea for women's education reform. She and her father later collaborated on Practical Education (1798) and Essays on Professional Education (1809). Her novels, noted for their keen social observation, include Castle Rackrent (published anonymously in 1800), Belinda (1801), and The Absentee (1812), which focuses on abuses by absentee English landowners. Edgeworth's dedication to Ireland extended beyond literary inspiration; she worked for the relief of Irish peasants during the potato famine of 1845–49.

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