Edward Bellamy was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1850. His grandfather and father were Calvinist ministers, but both were forced out of their positions because they held unorthodox ideas. Bellamy was likewise unsuited to religious orthodoxy. He left the church because he disagreed with its passivity toward miserable conditions on earth and emphasis on a just reward in the afterlife. From an early age, Bellamy was keenly interested in the problem of human cruelty and suffering, so he sought a career in which he could bring about social reform. He passed the bar exam in 1871, but a law career proved to be the wrong profession for him, so he became a journalist. While he worked for the New York Evening Post and the Springfield Union, Bellamy wrote fiction on the side.
Fiction would eventually prove to be Bellamy's true love. Although he produced numerous works, the publication of Looking Backward, a novel in the venerable utopian tradition, catapulted Bellamy to literary fame. Looking Backward highlights the evils that Bellamy perceived in the social and economic systems of nineteenth-century society. Julian West, the protagonist, is transported from the nineteenth century to a utopian twentieth-century society. Bellamy's novel proposes that an economy based on publicly-owned capital would solve many of the problems of social equality. The novel was an instant success, and Bellamy began a series of lecture tours to speak about the need for social and economic reform. Looking Backward has influenced a number of famous political, social, and economic theorists.
In 1891, Bellamy founded the New Nation, a Boston newspaper that espoused Bellamy's views regarding social reform. Meanwhile, Bellamy refused to accept payment for speaking engagements in which he discussed his views about reform. Bellamy's failing health forced him to close the newspaper, but he continued to write fiction. In 1897, Bellamy published Equality, a sequel to Looking Backward. Shortly thereafter, on May 22, 1898, Bellamy died of tuberculosis.