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The Season: A Social History of the Debutante
by Kristen Richardson
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Pearl-ruling this one as the writing is pretty dry and makes a topic I find interesting decidedly underwhelming. The introduction recounts Richardson's own minor brushes with modern debutante culture (she was asked and said no) but the writing here is pretty muddled as she seems to skirt wanting to discuss her heritage from living in an affluential family. The first chapter recounts the roots of the marriage market and the beginnings of debutante culture and "the season" in Britain. There's a couple references to real women here but more to Jane Austen novels, which definitely gives the examples broader chances of recognition but feel a little oddly out of place in a history book. This feels like a thesis or post-doctorate turned into a book but the writing didn't receive the popular history punch up. Likely useful for serious research on the topic but as recreational reading it falls short of my expectations. ( )
This was a fascinating history of a rather foreign world; the closest I’ve gotten to debs are when I read about girls going to London for the season in Regency romances.
"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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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)305.48 — Social sciences Social Sciences Groups of people Women Women by social group
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