The Season: Social History of the Debutante
The debutante process, at the center of some American’s love affair with the rich and beautiful can be traced back to post-Reformation England, when wealthy fathers needed a more efficient way to find appropriate husbands for their daughters.
Queen Elizabeth I’s presentations at court soon expanded years later into a defined social season filled with dances, dinners, and courting. The “season” was quickly exported to the colonies, where it has flourished in both white and African American communities.
Award-winning author Kristen Richardson will trace the history and evolution of the season on both sides of the Atlantic, and illustrate the centuries-old, highly choreographed rite’s significance to the lives of young women in Britain and the US. Using debutantes’ own diaries and letters, as well as her own experiences and interviews, she’ll take you from assembly rooms in Georgian England and Colonial Philadelphia to the ballrooms of Gilded Age New York and the antebellum South.
She’ll look at the arcane rituals of secret societies in St. Louis and New Orleans, as well as contemporary balls in London, Paris, and New York. Throughout, Richardson will focus on the girls at the center of the ritual, often objects of both admiration and derision, who held the keys to their families’ futures.