AMERICAN EMPRESS by Nancy Rubin

Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) led a long and interesting life that encompassed two world wars, three daughters and four marriages. I generally do not enjoy reading biography as too often it can be a dry recital of the trivia of someone’s life, but I have to say that Nancy Rubin in her biography of Mrs. Post, titled AMERICAN EMPRESS, has done a wonderful job in making it interesting. There was much I did not know about Mrs. Post. I didn’t realize that she grew up in Battle Creek Michigan, or that her father was an entrepreneur. All I knew about her was her wonderful collection of Russian porcelain and religious icons that are in the museum that used to be her home, here in Washington DC.

 

It is odd to reflect now, here in the 21st century, how people used to rush into marriage. Mrs. Post was married four times. I could understand why she married Edward Close (she was only eighteen), E. F. Hutton (he was the love of her life) and Joe Davies (he was interesting), but I must say I didn’t see the point of her marriage to Herbert May. But then women were made to feel that they couldn’t go out if they didn’t have some sort of male companion, and although her daughters encouraged her not to marry her male escorts, she herself was of an era when rigid notions of male-female relations prevailed.

 

Marjorie never did have much luck with husbands. She divorced two of them for infidelity, and the other two because, in their different ways, they cramped her style. Many of her friends speculated about why she was never happy for long in her marriages.

One of her friends remarked, “Marjorie, you could run General Motors. You could run U.S. Steel. You could run anything. You’re the smartest woman I know. But why do you have so much trouble with husbands?”

“Clare, I honestly don’t know. Ain’t it hell?” Marjorie is reported to have replied.

But the answer of course is that from the fact that you have formidable organizational skills and a steel-trap mind – as Marjorie did – it doesn’t at all follow that you will have a happy marriage. Because what is needed is a totally different kind of intelligence, what we now refer to as EQ or emotional intelligence.

This is not to say that Marjorie didn’t have any EQ – she had good relationships with all three of her daughters – but she didn’t have enough of it to offset all of her millions.

Because those millions, in my opinion, lay at the heart of all of her problems with her husbands. Four stars.

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