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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mary Wortley Montague

b. 1689, London; d. 1762, London

The correct spelling of this name is MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU.

Through her correspondence, poems, essays, and prose, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu became one of the most important women writers of the eighteenth century, unafraid to address controversial topics. While her major works were published posthumously, some of her essays appeared during her lifetime, including Court Poems (1716), a satire on the British court; A Plain Account of the Innoculating of the Smallpox. By a Turkey Merchant (1722), written while traveling in Turkey; Verses Address’d to the Imitator of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace (with Lord Hervey, 1733), a satire of Alexander Pope’s epic poems; and Embassy Letters (1763), penned during her travels through Europe. She initiated and published the journal Nonsense of Common-Sense (1737–38), which parodied the political journal Common Sense. Her novel Princess Docile, first published in 1996, features a woman with supernatural gifts bestowed by a traveler from the planet Venus. Montagu’s most important nonliterary contribution was her introduction of smallpox innoculation to Western medicine. During her husband’s ambassadorship in Constantinople in 1716–18, she witnessed the use of innoculation and brought the practice back to London. She had her own children innoculated and proselytized for its medical adoption.