Mrs Widener


Sally Sorour

What were Mrs. Widener's activities, interests, hobbies before 1912? Also, what were Madeliene Astor's activities, hobbies, interests before meeting J.J. Astor IV?
What were Mrs. Widener's activities, hobbies, interests before 1912? Did she do charity work before 1912? Did she frequent Newport before 1912?
Does anyone have more information on Mrs Widener's life post Titanic? I assume she was a great philanthropist and traveller. Anything more would be greatly appreciated! By the way, in her husband's biography, we see their beautiful house in the USA. Does anybody have more details about it nowadays? Thanks!!!
About the Widener.
I read in the St-Louis Post Dispatch, Tuesday evening, April 16, 1912:
Mr. and Mrs George D. Widener of" Lynnewood Hall"Philadelphia, were accompanied by their son, Harry Elkins Widener. Widener is a well known Philadelphia capitalist. It was said in Philadelphia that George D. Widener and his wife went abroad several weeks ago, Widener for the purpose of inspecting several works of art his father had intented to purchase, and his wife to superintend the purchase of a trousseau for her daughter, Miss Eleanor, whose engagement to Fitz-Eugene Dixon was recently announced.""
I realized this thread is a bit more of two years, but my question is not so important that implicates a new thread. I couldn't find any information of what prevented Mrs. Widener to get on an early boat? Was the family still asleep or didn't they realized the danger of the situation? Does anybody know the answer for this questions?

Regards, João
There wasn’t anything that prevented Eleanor Widener from going in an earlier boat except that she chose to stay with friends who were grouped together on A-Deck waiting to go in Boat 4. This coterie of New York and Philadelphia society loitered nearly to the very end while Officer Lightoller lowered other lifeboats. It’s strange these women and children were not brought back up to the boat deck to get into other lifeboats. When No. 4 finally cast off from the ship, water was pouring into the cabins on C-Deck. They almost waited too long!
From Time Magazine:,9171,762142,00.html

Monday, Dec. 25, 1939 Article ToolsPrintEmailReprints Famed for her parties was the late Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice. Until she dropped dead two years ago while shopping in Paris, her tennis-week ball was the No. 1 social event of the Newport season. Lavish was the word for her entertainments at her other mansions in Palm Beach, Paris, Manhattan. But in one of her Manhattan drawing rooms Mrs. Rice never dared to give a party. Reason: she feared for its furnishings, all 18th-Century French, valued at about $3,000,000.

Last week there was a party in Mrs. Rice's forbidden room. The room had been moved to Philadelphia's Museum of Art (to which Mrs. Rice willed it), but the goings-on might well have furrowed Mrs. Rice's brow. For 500 socialites crowded in among the priceless bric-a-brac, to munch chicken a la king and sip punch. No damage was done. But ordinary visitors will not be allowed to scuff across the room's Savonnerie carpet, made for Louis XIV, or sit in its superbly upholstered chairs. From behind ropes the public will view these and the Sevres porcelain, the Boucher tapestries, the rich Louis XVI paneling, the rock-crystal chandeliers, the china figures so delicate that dust is not wiped off them but whiffed away by a gently pumped bellows.

Appropriate was it that Mrs. Rice's most prized possession should go to Philadelphia. From Philadelphians she inherited two fortunes, totaling some $60,000,000–one from her father, Oilman William L. Elkins, the other from her first husband, George D. Widener, who with her elder son went down with the Titanic in 1912. In memory of her son she gave the Widener Memorial Library to Harvard. At its dedication in 1915 she met Explorer Rice, himself a millionaire. Four months later they were married.

Though the Philadelphia Museum of Art welcomed Mrs. Rice's drawing room, it would welcome still more warmly a gift from her brother-in-law, Joseph Early Widener. A leathery, meticulous Philadelphia patrician, Joe Widener inherited his father's great art collection, has made it even greater by ruthless pruning. In Lynnewood Hall, Widener's vast Georgian mansion at Elkins Park, Pa., now hang 105 paintings–all good, some masterpieces.

Joe Widener has long let it be known he would leave his collection to the public. It had always been assumed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art would get it. But this autumn the art world has buzzed with a rumor that the Widener art would go instead to the Mellon-endowed National Gallery of Art, now abuilding in Washington. Joe Widener has kept mum.

No secret is it that Andrew Mellon, before he made his gift to Washington three years ago, spent much time trying to persuade his friend Joe Widener to join him, since their two collections were perhaps the world's finest in private hands. Last time the two met, Mellon vowed, "I'll have you in with me yet." The addition of the Widener paintings and the fine Italian collection presented last summer by 5-10-25¢ Storeman Samuel Henry Kress (TIME, July 24) would make Washington's National Gallery one of the great galleries of the world.
This mentions Eleanor's will.

Most of article is not relevant but can be found at:,9171,802224,00.html

Passage pertaining to Eleanor:
Left. To Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, Manhattan surgeon, tropical explorer: the bulk of an estate assessed last week at $14,081,348.66; by his wife, Eleanor Elkins Rice, whose first husband was the late Philadelphia multimillionaire George Dunton Widener. Left in trust, the estate will go at Dr. Rice's death to his late wife's son and daughter by Widener.

You might want to post that question on the forum over at as there are a couple of passenger gurus that hang out exclusively over there.
On 22 December 1909, 'The New York Times' gave extensive coverage to the purchase - I think from Cartier, although the firm is not mentioned by name - of a fabulous string of pearls by George Widener as a Christmas present for his wife, formerly 'the beautiful Miss Eleanor Elkins'. According to the report, a spokesman for the jeweller said that:

'This is the most costly string of pearls in the world and brought the greatest price of any pearl necklace anywhere'

Costly indeed - around $750,000 to be precise!

The newspaper went on to say that it was thought that Eleanor would 'premiere' her new bauble at a ball given by her sister-in-law, Mrs Joseph Widener, at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in January, 1910. Contrary to expectation, the pearls certainly didn't make an appearance at the epic 'coming out' party the Wideners hosted for their daughter, also called Eleanor, at the same hotel, the Bellevue-Stratford, on 30 December 1909. Inclement weather delayed the entrance of many of the 1,800 guests but the society columns went into raptures over the presence of so many East Coast grandees. Sadly, it is not recorded whether any other 'Titanic' personalities were in attendance but I assume that the Carters, Thayers and Ryersons were summoned, along with other luminaries from New York, Washington and Baltimore. The colour scheme was a seasonal one of red and green and the ceiling of the ballroom was hung with cornucopias filled with poinsettias and from which confetti poured down onto the heads of the dancers below. Fresh flowers were everywhere and 'rustic bowers' of ferns and moss had been constructed around the floor. Must have been an impressive sight!