Anna Cora Mowatt, née Ogden, was born in Bordeaux, France, to the large family of Samuel Gouveneur Ogden, an American merchant and exporter, and his wife Eliza Lewis Ogden. When Anna was about seven years old, the family returned to the USA, settling in New York City, where she was educated mostly at home. She showed a love of reading and acting from a young age and performed Shakespeare plays at home with her many siblings. In 1834, at age 15, she eloped with James Mowatt, a wealthy lawyer, and moved with him to an estate in Brooklyn. Her husband encouraged her to continue her education and to write. Her first book, Pelayo, or The Cavern of Covadonga, was published in 1836, followed by Reviewers Reviewed (1837), The Fortune Hunter (1844), Evelyn (1845), biographies, and several books on cooking, needlework, and other domestic topics. She also contributed frequent articles, poems, and stories to Graham's Magazine, Godey's Lady's Book, and other periodicals. As her husband's health declined, her writing began to support the family. She used various pseudonyms but these did not deflect the criticism attached to such activities for women of her era. In 1841, she began giving public readings. Her first performance was attended by Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote about her, "A more radiantly beautiful smile is quite impossible to conceive." She became famous when Fashion (1845), her satirical play about New York society, was performed to rave reviews in New York City. That same year, she made her stage debut as an actress with great success. She performed leading roles in Shakespeare and in her own plays, and went on tour in the USA and Europe over the next eight years. Shortly before giving up the stage, she published Autobiography of an Actress (1853). After being widowed in 1851, she remarried to William Foushee Ritchie, a newspaper editor, and moved with him to Richmond, Virginia. She left Ritchie in 1860 and returned to the North at the outbreak of the Civil War. She then moved to Europe, where she continued to publish her work.