Alva Vanderbilt Belmont — inheritor of two great Gilded Age family fortunes — was bored.
In her youth, she had conquered High Society, marrying a Vanderbilt and throwing an extravagant costume party that forced the haughty Old Money clan of Astors to accept the nouveau riche Vanderbilts.
Then she coerced her daughter Consuelo to marry the Duke of Marlborough, assuring Alva a role in the royal British family.
But by the time she was in her early 50s, Alva was “worn out with social gain” and looking for a new cause. When she found it, the campaign to win the vote for American women would never be the same again.
This is one of the stories I tell in my new book, Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote. And it is the story I told the other night in Newport, RI, where Alva had not one but two of the famous grand mansions that still draw tourists to marvel at their wonders. And at Marble House, the Newport mansion William Kissam Vanderbilt gave her, she welcomed political activists to join a newly energized movement that eleven years later would lead to the 19th amendment that enfranchised American women.
The event was marvelous — attended by 90 people, many of whom bought books. Thank you to the Newport Preservation Society for making a marvelous memory.
Next stop: Book Culture in NYC at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Look forward to seeing you there.