Thursday, October 6, 2011

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt

This summer The History Chicks did an episode titled Gilded Age Heiresses.  It was so so so interesting to me.  People with more money than they knew what to do with, the struggle for social power, etc.  I really enjoyed listening to it.  One of the books they recommended that I was interested in reading was Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.

And as luck would have it, the book was in the personal library of Mrs. BBWP and I have a library card for there.

This was such a remarkable story.  Strong controlling mother, Alva, dictating as much of her daughter's life as possible. Even to the point of arranging her marriage into British nobility, because surely it's a mother's duty to pick her child's spouse.  indeed.  Plus, the story of what happened AFTER the wedding.  The book chronicles both women's lives from birth to death with a lot of historical context.

Here's the text from the back of the book:
When Consuelo Vanderbilt's grandfather died, he was the richest man in American. Her father soon started to spend the family fortune,m enthusiastically supported by Consuelo's mother, Alva, who was determined to take the family to the top of New York society - forcing a heartbroken Consuelo into a marriage she did not want with the underfunded Duke of Marlborough. But the story of Consuelo and Alva is more than a take of enterprising social ambition, Gilded Age glamour, and the emptiness of wealth.  It is a fascinating account of two extraordinary women who struggled to break free from the world into which they were born -  a world of materialist concerns and shallow elitism in which females were voiceless and powerless - and their lifelong dedication to noble and dangerous causes and the battle for women's rights.

Yes, that is much better than I could have said it.  It's definitely worth your time if this subject is anything you're interested in.

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