Edith Newbold Jones was born on January 24, 1862 to George Frederic and Lucretia Jones. Her parents were descendants of English and Dutch colonists who became wealthy from their shipping, banking, and real estate businesses. They were considered an aristocratic New York family. Edith lived in Europe for six years with her family. She returned to the United States when she was ten years old and lived in a fashionable area of Manhattan. Although she was intellectually inclined, her parents did not send her to school with her brothers. Instead, she educated herself by reading books from her fathers library and received lessons from her governess. Her upbringing was considered proper and expected for a debutante.
In 1885, she married Edward Robbins Wharton. "Teddy" was a banker from Boston and came from a similar social background, but artistic or intellectual interests did not interest him. As a result, their marriage lacked something that Edith needed from life. She felt empty. In 1907, she discovered that her husband had taken money from her to set up a mistress in Boston. This revelation, along with her desire to pursue writing, lead to their separation. They eventually divorced in 1912.
Her life was very active outside of these domestic troubles. She was a relief volunteer in France during Word War I. In 1905, she published the book that made her famous, "The House of Mirth". Other popular books included: "Ethan Frome" (1911), "The Reef" (1912), "The Custom of the Country" (1913), "Summer " (1917), and "The Age of Innocence" (1920), which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921. She writes about her wartime experiences in "The Marne" (1918) and "A Son at the Front" (1923). She also created a collection of short stories, poems, articles, translations, and reviews. She wrote her best when she was portraying the manners of New England America at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Heavily influenced by her friend Henry James, she depicted the contradictions of upper-class society.
In August 1937, Wharton suffered a stroke and died in France. She is buried in the American Cemetery at Versailles.
For additional reading, I highly recommend reading Cynthia Griffin Wolff's biography, "A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton".