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Maria Konopnicka was born Marja Wasiłowska in northeastern Poland. She was educated at home and at a Catholic convent school. In 1862, she married a landowner 12 years her senior, with whom she had six children. The marriage was unhappy, and in 1876 Maria separated from her husband and moved to Warsaw to pursue a writing career. She moved frequently around western Europe working as a journalist for many years thereafter. Her first poem was published in 1870 and she gained steadily in popularity over the years. Her work usually was published under pseudonyms such as Jan Sawa. She wrote novels and short stories for adults, children, and youth. She was also noted for her translations into Polish of authors such as Heinrich Heine, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Edmond Rostand. She was a social activist and women's rights advocate. Today her work is considered among the finest in Polish literature.
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