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The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day celebrates the life of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, an Irish novelist who was always published under the pen name “The Duchess” in the United States. Incidentally, The Duchess was also the name of her most popular novel, which was published in 1887.

History of The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day

The world is filled with books written by women writers who published anonymously or under assumed names due to the fact that women during their time had fewer rights. The Brontë sisters, Alice Bradley Sheldon, Mary Ann Evans and many others can be counted among those who lived in a society where their stance as women caused them to hide behind pen names. Another one of these important women was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford: The Duchess.

Even as a young child in County Cork, Ireland, Margaret enjoyed making up stories and often won prizes at school for her writing abilities. Sadly, by the time she was 25 years old, Margaret was a widow with three children, so she published her first novel, Phyllis, to support her children.

Her fiction was of the light romantic sort that offered readers in the English-speaking world a chance to escape through her characters. It didn’t have a lot of character development or dealing with heavy topics, but that’s probably why it was so popular at the time. In fact, Margaret is responsible for the popular phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, from her book Molly Bawn. So perhaps try to slip it into conversation in celebration of The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day!

In total, The Duchess had at least 57 works attributed to her name but it is actually possible that she may have written many, many more as a lot of her early work was published as Anonymous. Later her work was published as Mrs Hungerford, before “The Duchess” became popular in the States. She also wrote many newspaper articles in addition to the work of caring for her large family.

Margaret secretly remarried in 1882, to Thomas Henry Hungerford and they had two sons and a daughter together. She eventually died of typhoid fever in 1897, at the young age of only 41 years old. Sadly, at the end of her life, The Duchess left an unfinished, unpublished work behind, titled “The Coming of Chloe”.

The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day offers an opportunity for writers, readers and Irish enthusiasts to pay some respect and honor to a life that was spent telling stories that millions of people have enjoyed over the years.

How to Celebrate The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day

Enjoy observing The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day by celebrating the day with some of these ideas and activities:

Learn More About The Duchess Who Wasn’t

In celebration of The Duchess Who Wasn’t Day, get more informed about Margaret Wolfe Hungerford by reading up about her life, learning some interesting tidbits, and then sharing them to promote awareness for the day! Several articles have been written about The Duchess and her life, particularly through websites promoting Irish culture. A little online search will help with interesting facts like these:

  • Margaret was born the eldest daughter of a Church of Ireland minister.

  • The Duchess’s book, Molly Bawn, gets a mention in the eighteenth chapter of James Joyce’s famous novel, Ulysses.

  • Margaret’s marriage to her second husband was done in secret because her husband’s mother wanted him to marry rich, and her relationship with her mother-in-law was frightening at times.

  • Each day, Margaret was in the habit of setting aside three hours early in the morning to write her novels in a highly organized setting that was filled with reference books.

Read One of The Duchess’ Books

Because she was such a prolific writer, it isn’t difficult to find a copy of some of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford’s novels and enjoy reading them. Check them out in a local library or find copies online. In fact, many of her books have outlived copyright laws in the United States and can be accessed for free in digital form by certain publishers. Check out some of her most popular titles:

  • The Duchess (1887)
  • Molly Bawn (1878)
  • The Haunted Chamber (1886)
  • Faith and Unfaith (1882)

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