The Grandes Dames Author:Stephen Birmingham The Grandes Dames is the fascinating story of those rich and powerful women who for the better part of a century- 1870's to WW2 - ruled American society and our most cherished cultural institutions with flair, inventiveness and the sure hand of authority that make today's jet set and beautiful people seem like think parodies. Linked by money, ma... more »rriage, privilege, power and class, these women formed a grand American matriarchy that dominated the social and cultural live of our nation.
Here are the great families = Astor, Rockefeller, McCormick, Belmont, Huntington, Cromwell, Gardner - who forged a national identity, creating art museums, opera houses and symphony orchestras almost as private clubs - or as public extensions of themselves.
There was the formidable Caroline Astor who, when asked to deposit her fare upon boarding a streetcar, replied, "No, thank you, I have my own favorite charities." Edit "Effie" sTern, who, as her child approached school age, had a school built for her. And there was the grand Isabella Steward Gardner, who once said to contemporary who was babbling about Mayflower ancestors, "of course, immigration laws are much more strict nowadays."
Such women had looks and manners and that elusive ingredient known as style, but above all they had a sense of personal theater about hem - the sense that win one of them entered a room, something important happened.« less