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Birth of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

1689

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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was born in May 1689, the eldest child of the future 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull. She married, against her father's wishes, Sir Edward Wortley Montagu, who was later twice MP for Peterborough. Lady Mary is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from travels to the Ottoman Empire, when her husband was the British ambassador to Turkey. These witty and well observed missives, as well as her other writings demonstrate that she deserves to be better known as a great writer. Aside from her writing, Lady Mary is also known for introducing and championing smallpox inoculation (variolation) to Britain, which she had seen demonstrated during her time in Turkey. She had a great interest in the disease as she herself had suffered from it and was left badly scarred, and her brother died from it. Innoculation remained controversial and in later years was replaced by Edward Jenner's much safer technique of vaccination using cowpox rather than smallpox itself. Lady Mary died on 21st August 1762 of breast cancer having recently returned from Venice to London. Edward Wortley Montague had died the year before. Their names are remembered in the Wortley Arms, originally the Wortley Almshouse.