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Women

The women, from outwardly feisty to quietly mutinous, who made the Edwardian era so colorful.

Titled Americans, the 1890s Guide to Snagging an Aristocrat

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Titled Americans, 1890

The American Heiress is one of my favorite topics to cover when speaking about the Edwardian Era–and an American heiress is the heroine of my latest book!–so I was ecstatic when I finally tracked down a copy of the almost mythical quarterly periodical, Titled Americans. In this slim book is a list of all American heiresses who wed titled Europeans, as well as a “stud book” of elgible unmarried peers and aristocrats (with a strong emphasis on the British aristocracy), their professions, their estates, and their incomes. You can imagine how many social-climbing Americans poured over this magazine every year, plotting their assault on impoverished European aristocrats and laying siege to any who showed a hint of (financial) weakness. Below you will find a few entries I photographed specifically for you all! Click on the photos for their full size.

Titled American Magazine

Titled Americans

Titled Americans

Get your own copy of Titled Americans, 1890: The Real Heiresses’ Guide to Marrying an Aristocrat!

And now for the giveaway! Shire Publications sent two darling hardcover fascimiles of The Gentlemen’s Letter Writer (originally published in 1890) and Complete Etiquette for Ladies (originally published in 1876). Both books were published to help the rising middle classes and nouveaux riches navigate the social niceties of staying in hotels, courtships and social calls, as well as how to write the perfect letter to one’s solicitor or the headmaster of your son’s public school. One person will win both copies, so leave a comment below to enter! The contest will close August 10th at 7 PM PST.

Fascinating Women: Carrie Jacobs-Bond

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Carrie Jacobs-Bond

Music played a large part in the lives of the Victorians and Edwardians, and with the boom in the music industry in the 1870s and 1880s, not only was a piano de rigueur in the middle class home, but musical talent was encouraged in both males and females. During the turn of the century, parlour music–that is, music “intended to be performed in the parlours of middle class homes by amateur singers and pianists”–created a sharp increase in demand for sheet music of the day’s latest hits. Now you could hear a popular song performed on stage, and then rush to the nearest music store to purchase the sheet music and learn to sing and play it at home. This was lucrative business for many publishers, and soon, more and more songs were composed specifically for this amateur market. The birth of ragtime also coincided with the popularity of parlour music, and composers and lyricists such as Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and George M. Cohan (all of whom were considered leading names in Tin Pan Alley) earned considerable royalties from their talents.

Though the music industry was dominated by men–as were most industries, naturally–there were a few women who managed to break in, though Carrie Jacobs-Bond was the only woman to own every word and note she wrote. Jacobs-Bond was distantly related to Home! Sweet Home! lyricist John Howard Payne, but she did not rely upon this tenuous connection when she forged her own musical career after her second husband, Dr. Frank Lewis Bond, died of crushed ribs after an accident. During their marriage, she supplemented the household income with her painted ceramics, piano lessons, and minor musical compositions, but as a widow, this proved inadequate. Jacobs-Bond and her son moved to Chicago to be nearer music publishers, and she slowly built her reputation by singing in small recitals in local Chicago homes.

Jacobs-Bond got her first big break when her neighbor, a young singer, asked Jacobs-Bond to entertain her manager after an unexpected emergency. The manager, Victor P. Sincere, was impressed by Jacobs-Bond’s compositions, but she turned down his offer to have them performed because they were not under copyright. But she did ring up opera singer Jessie Bartlett Davis, hoping Davis would popularize her music. Davis instead volunteers to pay for the publication of Jacobs-Bond’s best compositions, which were released in 1901 as Seven Songs as Unpretentious as the Wild Rose. It was an instant success, enabling Jacobs-Bond to expand the small music publishing company she’d formed with her son in 1896.

With complete ownership of music published with the Bond Shop, Jacobs-Bond’s was financially solvent, not in the least because her most enduring hit “I Love You Truly” made her the first woman to sell one million copies of sheet music. Her reputation for simple, yet sentimental songs was set when she performed for Theodore Roosevelt, gave a series of recitals in New York City and in Europe (this paired her with the famous tenor Enrico Caruso), and collaborated with the celebrated African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar shortly before his death in 1906. In 1910 she published “A Perfect Day”, which sold five million copies, and Elsie Baker’s recording of “I Love You Truly” became the number one hit of 1912. The latter was a highly popular song played at weddings, and was ultimately covered over the course of the twentieth century by Sophie Braslau, Bing Crosby, Jeanette MacDonald, and Connie Francis, as well as being featured in numerous Hollywood films.

By the time of Carrie Jacobs-Bond’s death in 1946, she had composed 175 pieces of music between the 1890s and 1940s, sold millions of copies across the globe, and managed to succeed–beyond her wildest expectations–in the male-dominated music industry. When she died of a heart attack, former President Hoover was moved to write her epitaph: “Beloved composer of ‘I Love You Truly’ . . . and a hundred other heart songs that express the loves and longings, sadness and gladness of all people everywhere . . . who met widowhood, conquered hardship, and achieved fame by composing and singing her simple romantic melodies. She was America’s gallant lady of song.”

Further Reading:
Carrie Jacobs-Bond on Wikipedia
Music Composition as a Field for Women – Mrs. Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Remembering Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond

The Original Lady Diana

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Lady Diana Cooper (nee Manners)

As one Lady Diana married the Prince of Wales in 1981, another Lady Diana–one just as heralded, just as admired, and just as idolized in her day–was soon to turn 89 in August. This Lady Diana was also one of the last links (if not the actual last) to the glittering world of Edwardian high society and to the brilliant sons of “The Souls”, who all perished in the First World War. She was born into a world of privilege as the daughter of the 8th Duke and Duchess of Rutland (though it was widely acknowledged that her real father was The Souls’ resident lothario, Harry Cust), and her beauty and vivacity were apparent from a young age.

In fact, she was so remarkable, many hoped she would make a match with the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), but Diana preferred the company of her own choosing: Raymond Asquith, Patrick Shaw-Stewart, Edward Horner, Sir Denis Anson and Duff Cooper, to name a few. These men, as well as Nancy Cunard, Iris Tree, and her own sisters Letty and Marjorie, to a lesser degree, made up a new generation The Souls, known as The (Corrupt) Coterie. In the years between George V’s ascension and WWI, Diana and her friends ran wild through society, earning the censure of the older generation and newspapers of the day as they played, flirted, motored, and partied throughout the social seasons (but their rank and insularity protected them from true attack in the media). Diana’s beauty was recognized long before she made her debut in 1911, and once she was actually of age, the press on both sides of the Atlantic went mad to describe her gowns, her companions, and her entertainments.

The sign of the party’s end was heralded by the accidental drowning of Denis Anson in July during a barge party on the Thames and the outbreak of war a month later. The Coterie were momentarily checked by their separation, but when the male members returned to Blighty, it was almost as though they’d never left. Diana nursed in her mother’s hospital, but annoyed the Sisters and other VADs with her inconsistent attendance and tendency to take off with friends. The party eventually ended, however, as each young man fell in battle: Percy “Perf” Wyndham in 1914, Charles Lister, Julian and Billy Grenfell in 1915, Edward Wyndham Tennant, Ego Charteris (Lord Elcho, her sister Letty’s husband) and Raymond Asquith in 1916, and Edward Horner and Patrick Shaw-Stewart in 1917. By the war’s end, only Duff Cooper survived, and they married–against her parent’s opposition, but with the support of Ettie Desborough–in 1919.

From this time until the 1950s, Diana cultivated her fame and renown, acting in plays and silent films, impressing politicians and foreign dignitaries as her husband’s hostess, and becoming muse to some of twentieth century Britain’s greatest writers (Waugh, Mitford, Badnold). Her trilogy of memoirs, The Rainbow Comes and Goes (1958), The Lights of Common Day (1959), & Trumpets From The Steep (1960), further cemented her public image, and in the decades up til her death in 1986, she remained a vital and unstinting source of information for historians seeking to understand the rarefied world in which she lived. Some may call her selfish and snobbish, or flighty and unreliable, perhaps even flattered about her beauty and acting talent by sycophants, but she touched the lives of many people—whether for good or for bad—and helped to keep the spirit of her long-dead friends alive.

Further Reading:

Diana Cooper: The Biography of Lady Diana Cooper by Philip Ziegler A | K | N
The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson
The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War by Jeanne MacKenzie