Friday, February 18, 2011

Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad-Jehanne Wake

Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad
Jehanne Wake
Touchstone, Apr 5 2011, $27.00
ISBN: 9780982792827

Affluent Maryland planter Charles Carroll signed the declaration of Independence as the only Catholic to do so. Two score and one decade after he signed, three of his granddaughters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Caton) invaded London and took the country by storm in spite of being Catholic “colonists” and expected to wed the plantation owning crowd. Emily remained in North America where she married a Canadian heir to a large Montreal company John McTavish and managed the family Maryland properties. The trio quickly stormed the bastion of the Duke of Wellington who adored them and welcomed them into high society. He especially cherished Marianne who he could not marry so she wed his brother the Marquess Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Louisa married and became the Duchess of Leeds and a favorite of Queen Victoria; while Bess married an aristocrat but also made a fortune on the stock market.

This is a terrific historical biography that focuses on the four granddaughters of a little known Founding father. The quartet overcame bias by applying wit and intelligence that improved not just their lot but that of their families. Readers will enjoy attending the late upper crust soiree with the four Caton sisters as their guides. Photos and maps enhance a strong look at women who used their brains and beauty to make it in a man’s world.

Harriet Klausner

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