The Season: Social History of the Debutante
The debutant process, at the center of some American’s love affair with the rich and beautiful, can be traced back to England six hundred years ago when wealthy fathers needed an efficient way to find appropriate husbands for their daughters. Elizabeth I’s presentations at court expanded years ;ater into a season of dances, dinners, and courting.
Author Kristin Richardson will trace the social season of young women on both sides of the Atlantic. From Georgian England to colonial Philadelphia, from the Antebellum South and Wharton’s New York back to England, where debutante daughters of Gilded Age millionaires sought to marry British aristocrats.
She will examine this centuries-old, highly choreographed tribal rite: including ‘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. She will share the stories of these women through their diaries, letters, and interviews as she examines the debut’s cultural influence on the lives of daughters in Britain and the U.S.