Leigh - here is my Printout for Mrs Aubart and maid - I hope it helps:
AUBERT, Mrs. Ninette, Leontine Pauline (later Caille). Saved. Occuaption - Professional singer. Home address - 17 Le Seuer Street, Paris. Cabin B35. (Saved in Lifeboat number 9 ).
Sent Marconigram to Aubert, 42me Monge, Paris. ''Moi Sauvee mais Ben perdu''.
Marconigram accepted by Carpathia's Radio Office but not transmitted. (No time). To: Aubart, 42 rue Mongre, Paris. ''Sauvee. - Ninette Aubart''.
Insurance claim number D32. Injury: $25,000. Property: $12,200.
and Maid (Miss Emma SEGESSER). Saved.
Cabin B35. (Saved in Lifeboat number 9 ).
(From The Emergency and Relief booklet by the American Red Cross, 1913).
Case number 412. (French) lady's maid, 30 years old. ($200).
Marconigram accepted by Carpathia's Radio Office but not transmitted. (No time). To: Berthe Segesser, 30, Charles Baudelaire, Paris. ''Sauvee Amities. - Emma''.
Note: There is a full listing of her insurance claim available totals Frs. 61,100.
Last year, I found myself working 'on site' for a client who had recently had her library fitted out by a swanky decorator. As my colleagues busied themselves cataloguing the furniture and fittings, I took a few minutes to run along the shelves. There was nothing of great interest - most of the books having been selected for the decorative effect of their bindings alone - until I came across a whole run of French theatre magazines from the period 1905-1915. They were beautifully illustrated with hand-tinted photographs of the great actresses and courtesans of the era (Liane de Pougy, La Belle Otero, Sarah Bernhardt, Lantelme, Forzane and many others), all dressed in mouth-watering couture. My heart was pounding as I realised that I might, at any minute, finally come across a picture of Leontine Aubart, an elusive woman who has long intrigued me. But then, cruelly, just as I reached the volumes for 1911/1912, I was pulled away and so had to abandon the search.
Which leads me to my question: what, apart from the basic facts given above, do we really KNOW about Madame Aubart? My assumption is that she was a creature very much formed for a rich man's pleasure - in this instance, Benjamin Guggenheim. But it is interesting to consider her own personality and circumstances. Her occupation is given as 'singer' which I take to be a euphemism. Presumably, she was funded by whichever gentleman (or indeed, gentlemen) was (or were) enjoying her favours at any one time. Yet is it in fact right to consider her a prostitute, however high class? The word 'mistress' (and a FRENCH mistress at that) suggests all kinds of naughtiness. Was Guggenheim a one-off, do we know, or just the latest in a string of wealthy lovers?
What I have read about her here implies that Leontine lived in quite some style. Her photograph, small though it is, suggests a woman of some vivacity (with a snappy taste in headgear!) She had her own maid and quite an impressive amount of luggage - gowns, wraps and shoes by the dozen, besides 'a tiara of brilliants', all packed in Louis Vuitton cases. Was the amount she claimed as compensation after the sinking a substantial sum in 1912? I know nothing about the dollar/pound/franc exchange rates back then but it looks like it. And why, oh why, was she travelling back to the States with Guggenheim at all? Was he planning to set her up as his mistress over there?
Forgive my idle musing. We may never know the answers. I'd just be really interested to know what other people think. Randy/Shelley/Brian - as fellow fashion and Society buffs, this one is really directed at you!
>>Her occupation is given as 'singer' which I take to be a euphemism.<<
And she may well have been. It was hardly unusual for professional singers/actresses to be picked up on by wealthy and well connected gentlemen for some Bedroom Olympics. We were discussing Lily Langtree the other day who was the favourite of a prince.
The value of the insurance claim for lost property was, in terms of modern purchasing power, roughly £150,000. In 1912 that was sufficient to buy a very substantial suburban villa, with enough left over to park a Rolls-Royce outside. The lady was not short of a few bob.
If - and it's a very big IF - her claim was honest. Berthe De Villiers claimed an unfathomable amount for lost jewels, and then there was Hilda Slayter's claim. A woman supported by her sailor brother, traveling second class to marry a younger son, with one dress valued at $3,000 and another at around $2,000? Don't think so.
I think Berthe De Villiers and Ninette Aubart survived by recognizing and seizing opportunities - whether scouting men or filling out damage claims.
But anything's possible. Berthe, according to Judith Gellar, got a house out of a lover, so she might have gotten ridiculously expensive jewels. But I think the house came after an association of many years.
I can definitely relate to being intrigued at just how these women did it. Ninette's parties in the 20's indicate that she wasn't mopping floors to make ends meet.
Also, Ninette's name was later Caille? I didn't know she married.
Thanks. I'd never considered the possibility that she 'exaggerated' her losses!
I don't doubt that Leontine Aubart really DID have some sort of singing career. But she must have been pretty successful to be able to afford to travel in such style. I can't help speculating that she derived the bulk of her income from activities other than those which took place on a stage. Courtesan? Kept woman? Mistress? Whichever word you use, she definitely wasn't what would have been termed a 'nice' girl!
I think it was approximately 6 dollars to the pound in 1912. Perhaps these women just had rich relatives? They could have just been paid a lot because they drew big crowds. Just because they were successful women with some money doesn't mean they were prostitutes. How many wealthy prostitutes does anyone see hanging around brothels and red-light dstricts!!?
Sashka - I'd hate to give the impression that I think of Leontine hanging around on street corners, keeping her eyes peeled for the next customer. Although the Great War more or less put an end to them, courtesans in the grand tradition were still a feature of upper class life in 1912 - most particularly in France. They weren't prostitutes as we'd understand them. As often as not, they were talented, witty, intelligent women, dressed by the finest designers and hung with exquisite jewels by their wealthy admirers. Very many of them had 'connections' with the theatre - as Michael points out, the stage had never been considered a very reputable profession. Some of them even became well known actresses; their public images were certainly cultivated assiduously. But, for the most part, their stylish lives were made possible because they caught the eyes of wealthy men, who saw them as the ultimate status symbol. Liane de Pougy's famous 'Blue Notebooks' explore this theme much more closely.
I'm not suggesting that Leontine Aubart was in the same league as the likes of de Pougy or La Belle Otero but I suspect they may have had at least something in common!
>>Maybe she wasn't "nice" but I'll bet she was pretty good!<<
Works for me!!!! Smart money is that it worked for her lover as well. I don't think the affairs of any of these ladies would have lasted all that long if their reactions in bed were indistinguishable from rigor mortis.
I know that there were courtesans, but I want to know what evidence there is that she was one. I don't see why she can't just have been getting a good wage for her theatrical talent, or may have had a private income. Not all women who worked on stage can have been unrespectable and I don't want us to jump to a conclusion.
>>I know that there were courtesans, but I want to know what evidence there is that she was one.<<
For whatever it may be worth, I don't think she was one. Just somebody with a rather more liberal attitude towards sex then most people of the time. It's not as if "Doing It" for fun is a recent invention...it's anything but that...nor is choosing a decidely successful man for a lover.
Put yourself in her position. Who would you choose for a lover? Joe Sixpack off the street or somebody who had some real standing in society?
I don't know about anyone else, but I would go for the person I liked!!! I have criteria, but money isn't one of them. She may have done both, she may have done neither, who knows? I am a bit worried by the assumptions that are being made about this person, just because she was a woman on the stage. Lily Elsie seems to attract a completely different reaction, is that because she is 'sweet, lovely and fragile looking' and isn't French?!!!
I think the reason is that Lily Elsie had a well-documented career. It doesn't sound like anyone's turned up any conclusive evidence that Ninette even had a career. References to her as a singer seem a bit vague. If a woman in showbiz had earned enough to be sailing in first class on the Titanic with a maid in tow, her career would be fairly easy to trace.
This is exactly what I find strange is why everyone thinks this woman was choosing to have sex with rich men for gain, based only on the fact that she was on the French stage but was in first class with a maid with no other obvious means of paying for the tickets. Would everyone say the same if she was a male actor with a butler?!!
Leontine Aubart may or may not have been a courtesan. It is tempting to cast her in that role - it would add yet another touch of glamour to the 'Titanic' story! But WANTING to believe that something is true doesn't automatically make it so. As Michael points out, Leontine might not have made a career out of her liaisons. Guggenheim could have been a one-off. And, yes, she could conceivably have had private means (although I doubt that, if this was the case, she'd have been singing for her supper quite so literally).
What we need to remember (if any of us ever forgot) is that the moral standard in 1912 was much more clearly defined than it is today. There were certain rules of behaviour by which men and women - and most particularly UNMARRIED women - were expected to abide. Even if an individual chose not to obey those rules, he or she could have no excuse for not KNOWING about them. Around this same time, Lady Diana Manners was bewailing the fact that she was forbidden to dine in public with any man to whom she wasn't related. The very suggestion of impropriety could scupper a girl's prospects entirely. For Leontine Aubart to boldly set out across the Atlantic in the company of a much older married man who WASN'T her husband, father or brother...well, in the eyes of everybody aboard the 'Titanic' she would have been no better than a prostitute. Don't get me wrong. I'm not passing any kind of moral judgement on her. I admire her pluck - if nothing else, I like her philosophy, which seems to have been that a girl might as well be hanged for stealing a sheep as for stealing a lamb! I'm simply pointing out that, back then, the mere APPEARANCE of impropriety would have carried with it all kinds of connotations. Leontine herself recognised this and at least paid lip service to the conventions. There was a reason, after all, why she was booked under the name of 'Madame' Aubart - even if she hadn't been accompanied by Guggenheim, her status as a single woman, travelling alone, would have laid her open to all kinds of suspicions. And I've always assumed that she took her meals in the a la carte restaurant, not because her Continental palate was offended by the British cuisine served up in the dining saloon, but because a small table for one (or two) on B deck would have been more discreet.
With this in mind, my own conclusion is this: if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then the chances are - it's a duck!
Sasha wrote: Would everyone say the same if she was a male actor with a butler?!!
Probably - if he was a male actor with no documented work under his belt and known to be traveling with a rich person with whom he was romantically involved. Remember what's been widely inferred about Fynney and Gaskell in second class. Or the two men who were companions of many years (forget their names) who died together when the Lusitania sank.
I don't feel that anyone here has stated anything emphatically about Aubart's motives/character. We're just kicking thoughts around, like we do when exploring the life of any passenger.
I also don't feel anyone's automatically ascribing predatory behavior to any sexually active unmarried woman on the Titanic (Ninette wasn't the only one).