Kristen Richardson, from a family of debutantes, chose not to debut. But as her curiosity drove her to research this enduring custom, she learned that it, and debutantes, are not as simple as they seem.
The story begins in England six hundred years ago when wealthy fathers needed an efficient way to find appropriate husbands for their daughters. Elizabeth I’s exclusive presentations at her court expanded into London’s full season of dances, dinners, and courting, extending eventually to the many corners of the British empire and beyond.
Richardson traces the social seasons 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 delves into Jazz Age debuts, carnival balls in the American South, and the reimagined ritual of elite African American communities, which offers both social polish and academic scholarships.
The Season shares the captivating stories of these young women, often through their words from diaries, letters, and interviews that Richardson conducted at contemporary balls. The debutantes give voice to an array of complex feelings about being put on display, about the young men they meet, and about what their future in society or as wives might be.
While exploring why the debutante tradition persists—and why it has spread to Russia, China, and other nations—Richardson has uncovered its extensive cultural influence on the lives of daughters in Britain and the US and how they have come to marry.
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|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: Too Many Daughters
1 The Girl Standard: Understanding the Currency of Daughters 13
2 Revolution and Republic: The Antebellum North 43
3 Frozen in Time: The Antebellum South 66
4 The Four Hundred and Beyond: Old New York 94
5 Transatlantic Crossings: The Gilded Age 117
6 The Bright Young People: An Old Ritual at the Dawn of the Modern 145
7 Café Society, Celebrity, and Conformity: 1930s-7980s 159
8 Prophets, Krewes, and Fiesta Queens: The Modern South 178
9 Creating a Black Elite: Debutantes in African American Society 196
10 Nouveau Now: The Debutante Reimagined 212