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Mary Lady Chudleigh, née Mary Lee, was the daughter of a Devonshire gentleman. She educated herself by reading theology, science, and philosophy and began writing poems at an early age. In 1674, at age 17, she married Sir George Chudleigh of Ashton, Devonshire, with whom she had at least three children. She moved in intellectual and literary circles that included John Dryden, Mary Astell, Elizabeth Thomas, Judith Drake, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She supported the rights and independence of women, and was a model of the female intellectual. In 1701, she published The Ladies Defence, or the Bride-Woman's Counsellor Answered: A Poem. In a Dialogue Between Sir John Brute, Sir William Loveall, Melissa, and a Parson, a satire on marriage, which created a literary stir, and was followed by Poems on Several Occasions (1703). In 1710, she wrote Essays upon Several Subjects. She died at age 54, after having suffered from a disabling disease for many years. Her works, which often involved feminist themes, have have frequently been anthologized and many are still in print. Her letters have also been published. Her granddaughter Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, was at the center of a notorious bigamy scandal in 1776.
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