Encyclopedia Titanica


New York Times

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New York and Newport Society Woman, Wife of Explorer, Noted for Philanthropy
Lost First Husband and Son in Disaster---Gave Library to Harvard University
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
PARIS, July 13---Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice, the former Eleanor Elkins, wife of the surgeon and explorer, died suddenly here this afternoon.
At Mrs. Rice's New York home, 901 Fifth Avenue, it was said last night that her daughter, Mrs. Widener Dixon of Philadelphia, as well as her husband, was with her, in Paris. The other surviving member of her Immediate family is her son, George D. Widener, who is visiting friends in Locust Valley, L. I. It was later learned that Mrs. Rice died suddenly of a heart attack while shopping in a Paris store. She was 69 years old.
Lost Husband and Son at Sea
PHILADELPHIA, July 13---Mrs. Rice, widely known for her philanthropies, especially in the field of education, was married to Dr. Rice in October, 1915, three years after her first husband, George D. Widener, and her elder son, Harry Elkins Widener, were lost on the Titanic.

A member of one of Philadelphia's wealthiest families, she was the former Miss Eleanor Elkins, daughter of the late William L. Elkins, who amassed a fortune in traction lines here. Her marriage to Mr. Widener, son of Peter A. B. Widener, united two of the largest fortunes in the city. She was known as one of the city's most beautiful women.

After the Titanic disaster, she presented to Harvard University a
a $2,000, 000 library as a memorial to her son, a Harvard graduate. The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library was not the only building she built, however, as an aftermath of the Titanic's sinking.

She rebuilt St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church in Ogontz, near here, as a memorial to her husband, and in 1929 gave $300,000 to the Hill School at Pottstown for a. general science building in memory of her son. The building was planned not only to include the usual scientific facilities, but also small private laboratories for the students and space and equipment through which they might be encouraged to follow artistic, scientific and mechanical hobbies. Harry Widener was graduated from the Hill School in 1903.

Built Villa at Newport

Before the Titanic went down, the Wideners had begun plans for a now and spacious villa, Miramar, in Newport. Mr. Widener's widow eventually went ahead with the construction work and the completed mansion, was opened in 1915 with a ball attended by 500 members of society, including representatives of the diplomatic corps. Mr. and Mrs. Widener had designed the place and had purchased together from old French houses the contents of same of the rooms.

During the World War Mrs. Rice took a deep interest in the work of the Newport Chapter of the American Red Cross with the wife of Governor Beeckman of Rhode Island. She was one of the largest contributors at Newport when the Red Cross war fund was collected.

Just before the United States entered the war Mrs. Rice, who had survived the Titanic by manning the oars in a lifeboat, began accompanying Dr. Rice on his trips of exploration into the South American jungles. Her first journey, which was Dr. Rice's sixth, was started late in 1916, when they sailed for the Amazon River aboard the steam yacht Alberta from Newport. They took along many rare instruments sent by the Royal Geographical Society of England to be used in topographical surveys.

Fight with Jungle Natives

On Mrs. Rice's second South American trip, in 1920, she went further up the Amazon than any white woman had penetrated. The party warded off an attack by savages and killed two cannibals in the skirmish. As a result that trip was abandoned on the advice of Indian guides, but the Rices ventured several more times into the jungles.

Anxiety for their safety was felt in 1924 when no word was heard from the expedition for a long period. Two years later in a lecture here Dr. Rice praised his wife's bravery.

After her marriage to the explorer Mrs. Rice gave up her Philadelphia residence and divided her time among Newport, New York and Parts, except when she was in South America.

She was owner of much costly jewelry. A rope of pearls, a Christmas gift from Mr. Widener in 1909, was said to have cost $750,000. Another rope of pearls, lost on the Titanic, was valued at $250,000.

Related Biographies

Eleanor Widener

Related Places

Paris, France


Mark Baber, USA

Comment and discuss

  1. Rosser Kemp said:

    A Truly remarkable woman, a survivor in every inch of the word and what an amazing life.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) MRS. A. H. RICE DIES IN A PARIS STORE (New York Times, Wednesday 14th July 1937, ref: #3195, published 15 July 2004, generated 25th October 2021 04:54:40 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/mrs-h-rice-dies-paris-store.html