From PBS.org: Maria Edgeworth is often called the "Irish Jane Austen" or the "female Sir Walter Scott," although her writing actually influenced both. Her novels and stories fall into three categories: sketches of Irish life, commentary on contemporary English society, and instruction in children's moral training. Published between 1796 and 1834, her work is characterized by both a Scott-like Romantic attachment to the past and an Austenian wit and rationalism.
The English-born Edgeworth was the second of her father's 21 children (by four wives). She was schooled in Derby, England, and then in London. Her father believed that education was central to the construction of the "new" individual of the 18th-century, who would rise on merit rather than birth -- an idea derived from and also spurring the revolutions in politics and philosophy in the late 1700s. In 1782, Maria Edgeworth went to live with her father in Ireland and served as his property manager. Here she collected material for her novels about Irish landlords and peasants, but she also ingested his theories of education. Thirteen years later, Maria Edgeworth's first published work appeared: "Letters for Literary Ladies," a plea for women's education reform. She would later collaborate with her father on Practical Education (1798) and Essays on Professional Education (1809). Maria Edgeworth's first novel, probably her most famous work, Castle Rackrent (1800), was originally published anonymously. During the Irish famine of 1845-1847, she worked arduously for the relief of the Irish peasants.