The Season: A Social History of the Debutante

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Product Details

W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.4 X 1.1 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Kristen Richardson was born in London, England, and lives with her son in Brooklyn, New York.


Class power has never been about wealth alone. As Kristen Richardson skillfully and colorfully documents, the marriage market--and the courtly ritual of the debutante--lays open a long, troubling, transatlantic history. This engaging book reminds us that 'mock royalty' and the trophy daughter, whether it's Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1894 or Ivanka Trump more recently, are at the center of America's love affair with the rich and beautiful.--Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
Who knew being a debutante was so tough, and so fascinating? Kristen Richardson takes a deep dive into this centuries-old, highly choreographed tribal rite--presentations at court in London, 'Ethiopian Balls' during the American Revolution, Gilded Age Assemblies in New York, the arcane rituals of a secret society in St. Louis, bejeweled dresses more like a suit of armor, and the secret codes embedded in the movement of a fan. And pity the poor Texas girls who had to master the spine-twisting curtsy known as the 'Texas dip.' All this for a husband!--Donna M. Lucey, author of Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas
Kristen Richardson writes so gracefully, and tells a story of courtship and marriage I knew nothing about and found fascinating.--Ira Glass, host of This American Life
An immersive history, and one with remarkable empathy for the women populating it.--Maitreyi Anantharaman
[A] serious, enlightening look at debutantes throughout history...Richardson reveals a rich and complicated world.--Michael Giltz
[A] fascinating social history.--Francesca Carington
Richardson reminds us in this engaging and thought-provoking history, the use of daughters to cement power and wealth is very hard to give up.
Richardson's sharp account of how the season a more absorbing story than any period drama.--Cordelia Jenkins
A detailed examination of modern debutante societies...Richardson's engaging study deserves credit for its persistently humane treatment of her subjects.--Robert Leigh-Pemberton
The Season is a must for readers of social history, and all will appreciate Richardson's fluid, descriptive prose.