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Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family

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This is the story of the woman who transformed the character of one of America's most powerful families and then, as a pioneering museum founder, helped open the nation's eyes to modern art. In 1894 Abby Aldrich, the buoyant, impulsive daughter of Senator Nelson Aldrich, met John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the awesomely reserved heir to the Standard Oil fortune. This unlikely pair fell in love, but it was seven years before John felt confident enough to propose. "She was so gay and young and so in love with ...
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1993 Hardcover New 039456975X. Flawless copy, brand new, pristine, never opened-537 pages.

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Overview

This is the story of the woman who transformed the character of one of America's most powerful families and then, as a pioneering museum founder, helped open the nation's eyes to modern art. In 1894 Abby Aldrich, the buoyant, impulsive daughter of Senator Nelson Aldrich, met John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the awesomely reserved heir to the Standard Oil fortune. This unlikely pair fell in love, but it was seven years before John felt confident enough to propose. "She was so gay and young and so in love with everything," he later recalled, "that l kept wondering why she ever consented to marry a man like me." But she did marry him, and her intuitive understanding of people, her willingness to experiment, her defiant optimism, became the leavening in John's narrow, bureaucratic way of thinking. She expanded his vision of what the tremendous Rockefeller fortune could do, shaping the family into the progressive force in philanthropy, the arts, and politics that we know today. Drawing on letters and diaries and revealing interviews with family members and others, Bernice Kert has created a portrait of this vibrant woman that is both intimate and sweeping, that moves from the intricacies of her homelife to her work in larger arenas. Abby cherished and protected her six children - Babs, John III, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop, and David - and inspired in them a desire to serve society. She struggled to balance their needs against the insistent demands of a husband who felt abandoned if her attention wavered. She furnished and managed the Rockefeller houses, sometimes four at a time, and built a hotel for working women and a community center for immigrant families. From behind the scenes she helped direct some of the mighty Rockefeller projects, from the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg to the building of Rockefeller Center. And she supported and was nurtured by a wonderful network of women, including her blunt, deaf sister, Lucy, the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, th

The first complete biography of the founder of New York City's Museum of Modern Art. In 1901, Abby Aldrich married John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and set about transforming the fabulously wealthy but closed-minded Rockefellers into the progressive force in philanthropy, the arts, and politics we know today. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of Hemingway's Women , which offered new insights into the sources of that famously macho writer's creativity, once again illuminates the impact of a powerful female on American culture and society. Daughter of influential U.S. Senator Nelson Aldrich and wife of industrialist John D. Rockefeller Jr., Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948) tactfully managed to fulfill her own interests and abilities while also satisfying the demands of a difficult husband who adored her and resented anything (including their children) that diverted her attention from him. A pioneering art collector, she was the driving force behind the founding of Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art and encouraged a new appreciation of American folk art through her gifts to Colonial Williamsburg, the 18th-century Virginia town restored with her husband's money. She also nudged the notoriously conservative Rockefeller family towards broader-based philanthropy and raised her six children--Babs, John 3rd, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop and David--with a commitment to public service that the siblings still honor. In this elegantly written, carefully researched and psychologically astute biography, Abby Rockefeller emerges as a loveable and intelligent woman who wielded her great privilege to a variety of socially beneficial ends. Photos. (Oct.)
Library Journal
On October 9, 1901, the daughter of a conservative U.S. senator married the son of the richest man in America. Their union produced five children, a powerful foundation, and the first major museum devoted to modern art in the country. In this exhaustively researched biography, Kert ( The Hemingway Women , LJ 5/15/83) recounts the life of intelligent, extroverted Abby Aldrich and her marriage to John D. Rockefeller Jr. The author argues convincingly that it was Abby who humanized shy, religious John Jr., persuading him to renounce business in favor of philanthropy. Abby also founded the Museum of Modern Art (with friends Lillie Bliss and Mary Sullivan) and guided it from behind the scenes for many years. Highly recommended. --Caroline Mitchell, Washington, D.C.
Donna Seaman
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was a "woman of significance." The daughter of the controversial senator Nelson Aldrich, Abby was also a woman of means even before she married John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Theirs was a curious union. Abby was imaginative, charming, and adventurous, but John, the product of a Puritan upbringing, was reserved and cautious. Kert's ongoing analysis of the complexity and conflicts of their long and fruitful marriage is her book's most interesting theme. John was possessive and anxious when he wasn't the center of his wife's attention, a state he found himself in often as Abby bore six children in 12 years and resolutely pursued her passions for art, travel, and philanthropy. A pioneer in the recognition of folk art and a champion of living artists, Abby was the leading force behind the creation and success of the Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately, she recorded few of her innermost thoughts, and Kert seems to flounder in a morass of circumstantial detail despite working hard to breathe life into her subject. What we do learn is that Abby was a gracious, intelligent, and compassionate woman who loved hats, was especially close to her son Nelson, felt that women should live fuller lives, and believed that art "enriches the spiritual life and makes us more sane and sympathetic." An insightful portrait that, in spite of its shortcomings, illuminates the life of an influential and admirable American aristocrat who had her priorities straight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394569758
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/12/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 537
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.84 (d)

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