The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu

Scientist and Feminist

Jo Willett

 
Date Published :
May 2021
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
30 black and white illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526779380

Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stockPages : 288
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$49.95
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Overview
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The first biography to look at the early feminist and radical Mary Wortley Montagu, who successfully introduced Britain to the inoculation against the smallpox virus.

300 years ago, in April 1721, a smallpox epidemic was raging in England. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu knew that she could save her 3-year-old daughter using the process of inoculation. She had witnessed this at first hand in Turkey, while she was living there as the wife of the British ambassador. She also knew that by inoculating - making her daughter the first person protected in the West - she would face opposition from doctors, politicians and clerics. Her courageous action eventually led to the eradication of smallpox and the prevention of millions of deaths.

But Mary was more than a scientific campaigner. She mixed with the greatest politicians, writers, artists and thinkers of her day. She was also an important early feminist, writing powerfully and provocatively about the position of women.

She was best friends with the poet Alexander Pope. They collaborated on a series of poems, which made her into a household name, an ‘It Girl.' But their friendship turned sour and he used his pen to vilify her publicly.

Aristocratic by birth, Mary chose to elope with Edward Wortley Montagu, whom she knew she did not love, so as to avoid being forced into marrying someone else. In middle age, her marriage stale, she fell for someone young enough to be her son - and, unknown to her, bisexual. She set off on a new life with him abroad. When this relationship failed, she stayed on in Europe, narrowly escaping the coercive control of an Italian con man.

After twenty-two years abroad, she returned home to London to die. The son-in-law she had dismissed as a young man had meanwhile become Prime Minister.

About The Author
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JO HAS BEEN an award-winning TV drama and comedy producer all her working life. Her credits range from the recent MANHUNT, starring Martin Clunes, to BIRDS OF A FEATHER. Her most relevant productions include BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (a fictionalised story of the first women who ran Ann Summers parties in the 1980s), THE MAKING OF A LADY (an adaption of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel The Making of a Marchioness), BERTIE AND ELIZABETH (telling the story of the Queen Mother’s marriage) and the BAFTA-and-RTS Award-Winning A RATHER ENGLISH MARRIAGE (starring Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Joanna Lumley, adapted from the novel of the same name by Angela Lambert). She studied English at Queens' College Cambridge and has an MA in Arts Policy. She is married with a daughter, a son and a step-son. She lives in London. www.devoniaroad.co.uk.

REVIEWS
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"'Brilliantly written biography of a fearless woman who changed the course of history. Hard to imagine a more timely account of a woman who should be a role model for a generation. Put her on every twenty pound note until she is"

- Anne Sebba, author of That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, Les Parisiennes, and Jennie Churchill

"Jo Willett plunges us into Mary’s life with clarity and wit - a page turner from the start - a fascinating, courageous life. Unnervingly pertinent for our troubled times"

- Actress Anna Chancellor, Four Weddings and a Funeral (Duckface), The Hour, Ordeal by Innocence.

"If you love history and biographies, you’ll have a lovely time with this"

- Stylist Magazine

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