Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies (Paperback)
New York Times bestselling author Laura Thompson returns with Heiresses, a fascinating look at the lives of heiresses throughout history and the often tragic truth beneath the gilded surface.
Heiresses: surely they are among the luckiest women on earth. Are they not to be envied, with their private jets and Chanel wardrobes and endless funds? Yet all too often those gilded lives have been beset with trauma and despair. Before the 20th century a wife’s inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. And in modern times, heiresses fell victim to fortune-hunters who squandered their millions.
Heiresses tells the stories of these million dollar babies: Mary Davies, who inherited London’s most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American “Dollar Heiress”, forced into a loveless marriage; Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who married seven times and died almost penniless; and Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of independence and achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother's fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; and Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor.
Heiresses is about the lives of the rich, who—as F. Scott Fitzgerald said—are ‘different’. But it is also a bigger story about how all women fought their way to equality, and sometimes even found autonomy and fulfillment.
About the Author
Laura Thompson is the author of several critically acclaimed works of non-fiction. Her first book The Dogs: A Personal History of Greyhound Racing won the Somerset Maugham Award. Rex V. Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders was shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award. She has written biographies of Nancy Mitford and Agatha Christie, A Different Class of Murder about the Lord Lucan scandal, The Last Landlady about her grandmother, and the New York Times-bestselling Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters.
"Trapped in a silk-draped Venn diagram with the socialite and hostess, the heiress has been an unfair object of ridicule. After years of getting dragged through the tabloids and trotted out on reality shows like one of her beloved show ponies, she is both restored to dignity by Thompson’s concerned embrace and pushed away with an air kiss.” –New York Times Book Review
“[A] romp through the lives of the filthy rich.” –Wall Street Journal
“Skillfully evoking disparate social milieus and generational divides, Thompson packs the narrative full of juicy gossip without resorting to caricature. Readers will be enthralled.” –Publishers Weekly
“Authoritative, eye-opening, and gloriously gossipy.”--Booklist
“Engaging...A book that offers insight as well as entertainment—a peek into the human condition from an unexpected angle.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Heiresses is a haunting reflection on the gilded cage and its stifled female occupants, from Consuelo Vanderbilt to Barbara Hutton. Thompson shows in mordant detail how money really can’t buy you love.” –Daisy Goodwin, bestselling author of The American Heiress
"Heiresses is a book perfectly calibrated for our times. Thompson manages to shine a light into what it meant historically for women to have money and why it gave them some power but little happiness in a book that feels remarkably modern...witty, insightful, deliciously gossip laden and slightly scandalous." —Anne Sebba, bestselling author of Les Parisiennes
“With her characteristic wit and verve, Laura Thompson takes us through the follies, intrigues and dramas of the lives of a gallery of history’s heiresses from the 17th to the 20th centuries...rich with perceptive detail and will keep the reader entertained to the very last page.” —Helen Rappaport, bestselling author of The Romanov Sisters
“An engaging study of the effect wealth has on women.” —Anne de Courcy, author of The Husband Hunters and Chanel’s Riviera