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Astor, Brooke (30 March 1902–13 August 2007), philanthropist and socialite, was born Roberta Brooke Russell in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the only child of John Henry Russell, Jr., a major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Mabel Cecile Hornby Howard. Her father, who ultimately became commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, rose in professional responsibility while serving in several important assignments after his daughter’s birth, beginning with his command of the battleship USS ...

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Marilyn Elizabeth Perry

Astor, Caroline (22 September 1830–30 October 1908), society leader, was born Caroline Webster Schermerhorn in New York City, the daughter of Abraham Schermerhorn, a wealthy co-owner of a ship chandlery firm, and Helen White. Related to many prominent New York City families, Caroline grew up proud of her aristocratic background and social standing. After finishing her education in Europe, she married William Backhouse Astor, a son of one of America’s richest families, in 1853. The couple had five children....

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Berkeley, Lady Frances (1634–1695?), influential figure in Virginia politics and society, was born Frances Culpeper in Kent, England, the daughter of Thomas Culpeper, a member of the Virginia Company, and Katherine St. Leger. Around 1650 she and her parents immigrated to the colony of Virginia. Members of her family played important roles in Virginia affairs both in the colony and at court. Her father was an original patentee of land in the Northern Neck of Virginia, while Alexander Culpeper, her brother, held an appointment as surveyor general of the colony (1671–1694), and ...

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Anne Willing Bingham. Engraving after a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101783).

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Bingham, Anne Willing (01 August 1764–11 May 1801), leader of Philadelphia society during the Federalist period, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Willing, a wealthy importer and partner of Robert Morris (1734–1806), and Anne McCall, who oversaw Anne’s education. Anne studied literature, writing, French, music, drawing, and embroidery. Her childhood and youth were filled with social engagements shared with children of elite families, including her relatives the Byrds and the Shippens. Though her father refused to sign the Declaration of Independence and her family remained in occupied Philadelphia during the Revolution, they remained socially aloof from General ...

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Eliza Violet Gist Blair. Francis Preston Blair and Eliza Violet Gist Blair. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-1725).

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Blair, Eliza Violet Gist (1794–05 July 1877), newspaperwoman and political hostess, was born in either Virginia or in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the daughter of Nathaniel Gist, an Indian agent and planter, and Judith Cary Bell. Eliza’s father died in 1797, and a decade later her mother married ...

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Bonaparte, Elizabeth Patterson (06 February 1785–04 April 1879), celebrity, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Patterson, a wealthy shipper and real estate investor, and Dorcas Spear, daughter of a well-to-do merchant. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter in a family of thirteen children. She was known as “Betsy” and received her education from her mother and at a French school in Baltimore. Famed for her beauty as a young woman, she was known as “The belle of Baltimore” (Mitchell, p. 35). She was also ambitious and willful and hungered for a life of excitement and adventure....

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Brown-Potter, Cora Urquhart (15 May 1857–12 February 1936), actress, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Colonel David Urquhart, a banker and plantation owner, and Augusta Slocomb. Some sources list the year of her birth as 1859. Her childhood was spent in the gardens and drawing rooms of a prosperous, cultured New Orleans society. Cora displayed a talent for the stage at an early age and, encouraged by her French-born father, she often recited passages by writers such as Racine, Corneille, and Victor Hugo for family and friends. As a child Cora did not attend school but was educated both at home, benefiting from her parents’ extensive library, and through travel abroad. The family lived in Paris for two years during the unsettled period immediately following the Civil War. Cora later accompanied her grandmother on summer trips to Scotland, England, Norway, and Sweden....

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Burr, Theodosia (21 June 1783– January 1813), society belle and political heroine, was born in Albany, New York, the daughter of Aaron Burr, a lawyer, politician, and later vice president of the United States, and Theodosia Prevost. Steeped in the educational philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau, author of ...

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Caldwell, Mary Gwendolin Byrd (21 October 1863–05 October 1909), philanthropist and socialite, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of William Shakespeare Caldwell, a plant operator, and Mary Eliza Breckenridge. Soon after the death of Caldwell’s mother, her father, who had made a fortune constructing and operating gas plants in the Midwest, moved the family to New York City where, shortly before his death in 1874, he converted to Roman Catholicism and enrolled his two daughters in the Academy of the Sacred Heart, their primary source of education. Under the terms of his will, Caldwell and her sister, Mary Elizabeth, were made wards of Catholic friends and, on their twenty-first birthdays, were to donate a third of their vast inheritance to the Catholic church....

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Jennie Jerome Churchill. Carbon print, c. 1895, by Herbert Barraud. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Churchill, Jennie Jerome (09 January 1854–29 June 1921), society hostess, wife of Lord Randolph Churchill, and mother of Winston Churchill, was born Jeanette Jerome in Brooklyn, New York, the second daughter of Leonard Jerome, a financier, editor, and sportsman, and Clarissa (Clara) Hall. Called Jennie after the popular singer Jenny Lind, Jennie’s childhood was marked by the wealth and tastes of her ambitious parents. Leonard made his fortune speculating in stocks and built his reputation supporting progressive causes within the Whig Party and later the Republican Party, serving as consul in Trieste from 1852 to 1853. From an early age, Jennie shared her father’s love of music and horses and was an accomplished pianist and rider all her life. Her education included attendance at an elite private school and piano lessons with Stephen Heller, a friend of Chopin’s. Despite their wealth, the Jeromes were never accepted among New York’s elite families, a slight felt deeply by Jennie’s mother. In 1867, after Leonard suffered a significant loss in the stock market, Clarissa moved to Paris with her three daughters. Jennie would never live in the United States again....

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Clay-Clopton, Virginia Tunstall (16 January 1825–23 June 1915), society leader, author, and suffragist, was born Virginia Caroline Tunstall in Nash County, North Carolina, the daughter of Peyton Randolph Tunstall, a physician, and Ann Arrington. She lost her mother before the age of three, and her father left her upbringing to her maternal relatives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Initially she lived with her aunt, the wife of ...

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Davis, Varina Anne Jefferson (27 June 1864–18 September 1898), "the Daughter of the Confederacy" and author, “the Daughter of the Confederacy” and author, was born in the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, and ...

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Douglas, Adèle Cutts (27 December 1835–26 January 1899), Washington belle and hostess and wife of Stephen A. Douglas, Washington belle and hostess and wife of Stephen A. Douglas, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James Madison Cutts, an official in the U.S. Treasury Department, and Ellen Elizabeth O’Neale (or Neale), the descendant of a prominent Roman Catholic family in Maryland. Adèle’s grandfather, Richard Cutts, in whose house on Lafayette Square she lived as a child, had also served in the Treasury Department, as well as serving twelve years in Congress. Her aunt was ...

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Duke, Doris (22 November 1912–28 October 1993), heiress and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the daughter of James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, a tobacco and real estate tycoon and philanthropist, and his second wife, Nanaline Lee Holt Inman, a widow. Buck Duke, the founder and president of the American Tobacco Company, the maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, spoiled and protected Doris (his fear of kidnapping and germ infection led him to build her a private Pullman car, the ...

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Eaton, Peggy (03 December 1799?–08 November 1879), central figure in a series of political scandals, was born Margaret O’Neale in the city of Washington (now in the District of Columbia), the daughter of William O’Neale and Rhoda Howell, innkeepers. Her father, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, served as a major during the revolutionary war and was a tavern owner at the time of her birth (which some sources cite as 1796). Peggy was the eldest of six children and received an extensive education at Mrs. Hayward’s fashionable private school. As her parents prospered, the pretty and vivacious girl was surrounded by male admirers, including numerous members of Congress who resided at the O’Neales’ Franklin House. She claimed in her autobiography to have driven one spurned suitor to suicide and to have precipitated an abortive duel between two smitten army officers. In 1815 her parents sent her to finishing school in New York after a botched elopement....

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Fish, Marian Graves Anthon (08 June 1853–25 May 1915), socialite, was born at Grimes Hill, Staten Island, New York, the daughter of William Anthon, a successful criminal attorney, and Sarah Attwood Meert. Neither old nor aristocratic, her family readily spent the good income that Anthon earned. But Marian, despite being undereducated, made a highly advantageous match, both socially and financially, when on 1 June 1876 she married ...

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Zelda Fitzgerald Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115117).