Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women: Elisabeth Marbury, Anne Morgan, Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Vanderbilt, and Their Times

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9780140241730: Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women: Elisabeth Marbury, Anne Morgan, Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Vanderbilt, and Their Times

Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women is a group biography of four talented-and wealthy-New York women at the turn of the twentieth century whose lives became intertwined as they pioneered new roles for women. With dash, wit, intelligence, and industry, Elisabeth Marbury, her partner Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Morgan (daughter of J. P. Morgan), and Anne Vanderbilt had the courage to use their privileged status to transform their world. From attending lively society balls and Europe's royal courts to marching in labor-organizing protests and nurturing great talents such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Cole Porter, their activities open an illuminating window onto the worlds of art, culture, politics, science, and finance at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Review:

Born into New York City's Victorian aristocracy and destined for the constricted lives considered proper for genteel women, the ladies and not-so-gentle women of this book invented new, more fulfilling identities for themselves with all-American aplomb. Bessy Marbury (1856-1933) was a pioneering play agent who fostered the careers of such scandalous writers as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. Her longtime companion, Elsie de Wolfe (1858-1950), virtually invented the field of interior decorating, making her name by refining the tastes of the rich. Anne Morgan (1873-1952), who began a passionate affair with Marbury in 1904, used her privileged position as J.P. Morgan's daughter to forcefully advocate the rights of working women; Morgan's close friend Anne Harriman Vanderbilt (1859-1940) surmounted such personal sorrows as the premature deaths of two husbands and a daughter's mental illness by devoting herself to charitable work on behalf of drug addicts, prisoners, and soldiers. Veteran nonfiction author Alfred Allan Lewis deftly juggles the interlocking stories of these remarkable women (and just about every famous name in New York society, the feminist movement, the theater, and American government at the time) in an atmospheric narrative studded with shrewd character sketches and colorful anecdotes. He creates an enjoyable group portrait of the four trailblazers, "neither rabble rousers nor conformists, [but] pragmatists who helped to adapt revolutionary principles in ways that made them palatable to the public." --Wendy Smith

About the Author:

Alfred Allan Lewis is the author of numerous nonfiction books, plays, and television shows.

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