Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a writer, traveller and medical pioneer. Born in 1689, she was a woman ahead of her time. Her 18th-century contemporary Joseph Spence described her as “…one of the most extraordinary characters in the world; … she shines like a comet; she is all irregular and always wandering…” Born in Nottinghamshire, her connection with Sheffield comes through her husband Edward Wortley Montagu with whom she eloped in 1712. His family estates included Wortley Hall, north of Sheffield, although Lady Mary only lived there briefly. In 1716 her husband was appointed ambassador to Turkey and Lady Mary travelled across Europe to meet him in Constantinople (now Istanbul). She was a prolific letter writer, sharing details of everything from gossip, her tempestuous relationship with poet Alexander Pope, thoughts about literature and science and her quest to conquer smallpox. As a young woman, Lady Mary had caught smallpox – an epidemic that left one in four dead (and had killed her brother). Those who did survive were left with terrible scars, and, in Lady Mary’s case, permanent damage to her eyes as well. While living in Turkey, Lady Mary witnessed local people being vaccinated against smallpox – a practice… Read full this story
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