Posted by: shrewspeaks | July 31, 2008

Throughly Modern Alva

Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont…

It is hard to sum up this lady in just mere words…she was a southern lady from Mobile, Alabama who married William K. Vanderbilt.  If you walk around Newport and trip on a rock…most likely Alva and William had it placed there.  Alva pretty much bought her way into The Mrs. Astor’s 400.  The story goes that Astor’s daughter was simply desperate to attend a Vanderbilt Masqurade, but Alva told her “Sorry Dear, it would not be fitting for me to invite you, since I am not deemed worthy of the 400.” Shortly there after a dinner invitation was sent from Lina to Alva and so the nouveau riche were legitimized.

Beyond building the in roads for social climbing…William built Alva Marble House for her 39th birthday. 

(I’d like it to be noted that I am 39.)  Marble House is open to the public for daily tours.  William must have built this “cottage” as a way of appeasing Alva for his wanton ways; for in 1895, Alva shocked the world by divorcing William on the grounds of adultery.  Alva was granted a sum in excess of $10 Million.

A short 10 months later, Alva again rocked society by marrying the much younger jewish banking heir (american Rothschild connection) , Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont.  Alva set about creating her new digs right next store to The Mrs. Astor by renovating Oliver’s castle , Belcourt.

Oliver passed away in 1908, and like a phoenix, Alva was reborn once again as a great suffragette.  From Wikipedia…

By this time, organized suffrage activity was centered on educated, middle-class white women, who were often reluctant to accept immigrants, blacks, and the working class into their ranks. Belmont’s Political Equality League only partially broke with this tradition. She established its first “suffrage settlement house” in Harlem, and she included black women and immigrants in weekend retreats at Beacon Towers, her Châteauesque style castle inSands Point, New York. However, she also contributed to the Southern Woman Suffrage Conference, which refused to admit blacks.[2]

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), organized by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, separated from the NAWSA in 1913. Alva then merged the Political Equality League into the CU. Now committed to securing the passage of the 19th Amendment, she convened a “Conference of Great Women” at Marble House in the summer of 1914. Alva’s daughter Consuelo, who promoted suffrage and prison reform in England, addressed the gathering, which was followed by the CU’s first national meeting. Belmont served on the executive committee of the CU from 1914 to 1916.[2]

In 1915 Alva chaired the women voters’ convention at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The following year, she and Alice Paul established the National Woman’s Party from the membership of the CU and organized the first picketing ever to take place before the White House, in January 1917. She was elected president of the National Woman’s Party, an office she held until her death. The National Woman’s Party continued to lobby for new initiatives from the Washington, D.C. headquarters that Alva had purchased in 1929 for the group, now theSewall-Belmont House and Museum.[2]

Talk about a re-writing the rules!  Later Alva moved to Paris to be closer to her daughter.  On January 26, 1933, the world lost Throughly Modern Alva. Her funeral at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City featured all female pallbearers and a large contingent of suffragists. She is interred next to Oliver Belmont in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.


She is quoted as saying:

First marry for money, then marry for love.

Just pray to God. She will help you.

~ in a nut shell, Alva .



  1. […] News » News Throughly Modern Alva2008-07-30 23:53:36And to attend a … you walk around Newport and William had it placed there. Alva […]

  2. Hello,

    I read about your upcoming lecture on the suffragettes, and find it very interesting, and wish you the best of success.

    I think it is so important to keep this history alive through activities like yours.

    If you are interested in all of the twists and turns that played into women winning the vote way back when, you will find “The Privilege of Voting” fascinating.

    I am the author of this new and exhaustively researched historical e-mail series that tells the stories of suffragettes.

    This serialized novella goes behind the scenes in the lives of eight well-known women from 1912 to 1920 and reveals the sexy, shocking truth of HOW the suffragettes won the right to vote.

    The women depicted include two presidential mistresses, Edith Wharton, Isadora Duncan, Alice Roosevelt, and two of the most beautiful and outspoken suffragettes, Alice Paul and Emmeline Pankhurst.

    But this is no boring history report. The chronological series is written in a unique, fun short story format called Coffeebreak Readers.

    Each action-packed episode takes about 10 minutes to read, so they are perfect to enjoy on coffeebreaks, or anytime.

    You and your lecture attendees can subscribe to receive free twice-weekly e-mails at:

    Best to you,

    Virginia Harris
    Series Author

  3. Yes, I too, am anxiously awaiting your lecture. Actually, I am traveling all the way from Alva’s hometown to do so.


    I am woman, hear me roar.

  4. Upcoming lecture? Did I miss something somewhere?

  5. Yeah Karmardav…I will be pontificating about Iron Jawed Angels.

  6. For a minute there, I thought you said “Iron Flawed Angels” and wondered if you would be mentioning me and my pitiful iron-deficient self.

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