Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (1855-1897) was born in County Cork, Ireland. As the eldest daughter of a church minister, she was able to gain higher education than most children in Ireland during the 19th century. From a young age, Wolfe Hungerford showed her writing talents. However, she started publishing her work only at the age of 23, after her first husband died, and she had to support her three daughters. She published her first novel Phyliss in 1877 and did not stop, even after she remarried and had three more children.
Like many women writers at the time, Wolfe Hungerford published her work anonymously, or Mrs. Hungerford, or her most popular pen name, The Duchess, which was also the title of one of her novels. Wolfe Hungerford has published at least 57 works in her short life, including articles, short stories, and books. Her most famous novel is Molly Bawn, in which she coined the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day, held annually on August 27th, celebrates of Wolfe Hungerford’s life, work, and contribution to literature, paving the way to other women writers and novelists. The name of the day, “The Duchess Who Wasn’t,” is an homage to her most famous pen name, The Duchess.
This day is also an opportunity to recognize and honor all the other women writers who published their work anonymously because of social norms and constraints, such as Jane Austin, who signed “By a Lady,” and the Brontë sisters who published under the name Ellis Bell (Emily) and Currer Bell (Charlotte).
How to celebrate this day:
• Learn about Wolfe Hungerford’s life and read her novels.
• Use the day as an excuse to say the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” as much as you can.
• Explore other anonymous women authors’ writings and life stories and share your findings on social media using #TheDuchessWhoWasn’tDay.
This post is also available in: Español