Alva Vanderbilt Belmont

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont

Unlikely Champion of Women's Rights
Sylvia D. Hoffert
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/23/2011
Format: Hardback 20 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35661-1
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A New York socialite and feminist, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was known to be domineering, temperamental, and opinionated. Her resolve to get her own way regardless of the consequences stood her in good stead when she joined the American woman suffrage movement in 1909. Thereafter, she used her wealth, her administrative expertise, and her social celebrity to help convince Congress to pass the 19th Amendment and then to persuade the exhausted leaders of the National Woman’s Party to initiate a world wide equal rights campaign. Sylvia D. Hoffert argues that Belmont was a feminist visionary and that her financial support was crucial to the success of the suffrage and equal rights movements. She also shows how Belmont’s activism, and the money she used to support it, enriches our understanding of the personal dynamics of the American woman’s rights movement. Her analysis of Belmont’s memoirs illustrates how Belmont went about the complex and collaborative process of creating her public self.

Author Bio

Sylvia D. Hoffert is Emerita Professor of History at Texas A&M University and author of A History of Gender in America and Jane Grey Swisshem: An Unconventional Life.


“This compelling biography explores the life of a domineering, temperamental and opinionated New York socialite and feminist whose fierce resolve and social celebrity helped convince Congress to pass the 19th Amendment.”

“A major contribution to our understanding of the women's rights movement in America and to feminist biography and historiography.”
 — Ruth Crocker, author of Mrs. Russell Sage: Women's Activism and Philanthropy in Gilded Age and Progressive Era Ame

“Hoffert's refined understanding of how a biographer's subjectivity shapes the narrative of someone else's life strengthens her engaging look at Belmont's place in history. . . . [H]er expert handling of the autobiographical source material reveals how intricately woven good biography can be. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

“Hoffert ably tells the fascinating story of Belmont’s rise to celebrity status and her crucial contributions to suffrage and the women’s rights movement ”
 — CCWH Newsletter

“Sylvia D. Hoffert has made a convincing case that Belmont's work on behalf of women's suffrage was critical to the movement's success.”
 — Journal of American History

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Table of Contents

1. An Impossible Child
2. Every Inch a General
3. A Sex Battle
4. Immortalizing the Lady in Affecting Prose
5. Belmont's Orphan Child
6. The Last Word
Postscript: My Turn
Appendix: Belmont's Financial Contributions to Woman's Rights

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