Hot Best Seller

The Season: A Social History of the Debutante

Availability: Ready to download

The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires. Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson - herself descended from a line of debutantes - was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women an The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires. Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson - herself descended from a line of debutantes - was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women and marriage in a new light. In this brilliant history of the phenomenon, Richardson shares debutantes’ own words—from diaries, letters, and interviews—throughout her vivid telling, beginning in Henry VIII’s era, sweeping through Queen Elizabeth I’s court, crossing back and forth the Atlantic to colonial Philadelphia, African American communities, Jane Austen’s England, and Mrs. Astor’s parties, ultimately arriving at the contemporary New York Infirmary and International balls. Whether maligned for its archaic attitude and objectification of women or praised for raising money for charities and providing a necessary coming-of-age ritual, the debutante tradition has more to tell us in this entertaining and illuminating book.


Compare

The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires. Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson - herself descended from a line of debutantes - was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women an The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires. Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson - herself descended from a line of debutantes - was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women and marriage in a new light. In this brilliant history of the phenomenon, Richardson shares debutantes’ own words—from diaries, letters, and interviews—throughout her vivid telling, beginning in Henry VIII’s era, sweeping through Queen Elizabeth I’s court, crossing back and forth the Atlantic to colonial Philadelphia, African American communities, Jane Austen’s England, and Mrs. Astor’s parties, ultimately arriving at the contemporary New York Infirmary and International balls. Whether maligned for its archaic attitude and objectification of women or praised for raising money for charities and providing a necessary coming-of-age ritual, the debutante tradition has more to tell us in this entertaining and illuminating book.

30 review for The Season: A Social History of the Debutante

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    An engaging social history that, perhaps wisely, avoids reflecting the ever-evolving history of marriage, which was running in a not-always-parallel track to the presentation of eligible young woman through English history in particular. It's a fun read, but I caution anyone serious about history to delve further, as I caught a number of errors. Besides naming the wrong king George (a mistake easily made) at the turn of the twentieth century, the farther back in history the more errors that I sus An engaging social history that, perhaps wisely, avoids reflecting the ever-evolving history of marriage, which was running in a not-always-parallel track to the presentation of eligible young woman through English history in particular. It's a fun read, but I caution anyone serious about history to delve further, as I caught a number of errors. Besides naming the wrong king George (a mistake easily made) at the turn of the twentieth century, the farther back in history the more errors that I suspect arise out of the author not having made a study of these earlier periods of European history. Like the statement that conduct books (or courtesy books, manuals of etiquette and manners) appeared in England in the 1700s. Actually, no, they go back for centuries, an important one being various translations of Castiglione's The Courtier in the late 1500s--and the many, many fictional manuals of court and salon etiquette published in France all through the 1600s, which were read eagerly by the English upper classes, who learned French along with their drawing room polish. There were also reams of religious tracts whose purpose was to caution girls to be meek and modest This goes for fictional reference as well; the single nod to Pride and Prejudice is completely wrong, a fact that five minutes' checking the text would have corrected. (Richardson writes, Mary belabors her time at the piano by playing religious tunes off-key--how did she get that from "Mary, at the end of a long concerto, was glad to purchase praise and gratitude by Scott and Irish airs"--which songs were not religious at all, but played so that her sisters could dance?) Then there were the occasional textual errors ("He was bored of the endless banquets given in his honor . . ." should have been bored with), but these are all things a more diligent copy editor ought to have caught. The bulk of the book makes an absorbing read, tracing the evolution of presentation/coming out/debut/debutante through the centuries, with tantalizing quotations from the letters and diaries of young women over the centuries. Richardson does a good job tracing how in New York society in particular, as the increasingly wealthy middle class caught on, presentation of debutantes became a business, keeping a number of side industries afloat, from the Keepers of Lists to flower sellers and orchestras. Social histories such as these bring the focus to women's lives. Richardson brings the evolving view of debutantes to the twenty-first century, including very brief overviews of the burgeoning debutante business among China's new rich, and among women of color, for so long shut out of white class rituals. I would really have liked seeing more pictures, especially of the gowns and locations mentioned in the book. But like I said, overall it was quite absorbing, in particular when the author got to more modern times, and could draw on more sources of material in addition to her own experiences.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! I find social histories fascinating. I thought that Richardson did a lot of research, starting even before Elizabeth I and moving through to now. That's amazing and she condensed all she learned into a book that will be around 300 pages. Like, wow. For me, I got a bit glazed after a while, but it's still interesting. I could see myself revisiting this at some point in the future! One thing, though. One part in the book, she talked ab Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! I find social histories fascinating. I thought that Richardson did a lot of research, starting even before Elizabeth I and moving through to now. That's amazing and she condensed all she learned into a book that will be around 300 pages. Like, wow. For me, I got a bit glazed after a while, but it's still interesting. I could see myself revisiting this at some point in the future! One thing, though. One part in the book, she talked about George V and said that he had a stutter and his brother abdicated. Wrong King George. That was George V's son, George VI who had all that. So, something I caught that was wrong historically. Hope that gets caught and fixed for the final copy!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much more than describing the rites of debutantes this book speaks to. Within the framework of describing the debutante phenomenon, the author meshes it with changing social norms and growing internationalism. A few debs are highlighted to give the reader an understanding of both Deb and post Deb years. I found this book very engaging and I would recommend it to women’s studies courses. It’s a delightful way to read social history while becoming cognizant of glo I was pleasantly surprised at how much more than describing the rites of debutantes this book speaks to. Within the framework of describing the debutante phenomenon, the author meshes it with changing social norms and growing internationalism. A few debs are highlighted to give the reader an understanding of both Deb and post Deb years. I found this book very engaging and I would recommend it to women’s studies courses. It’s a delightful way to read social history while becoming cognizant of globalization and it’s effects on traditions, here in America, as well as England, China and France. Thank you Netgalley, for an informative and enjoyable read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Wow, this was terrible. Other reviews have mentioned how this is rife with errors, so I’ll just add one more: that the author doesn’t know the difference between shillings and pence. Add to that a lack of focus and a tone that manages to be both snooty and sneering as the author tries to be both in and out. Finally, I’d like to know her credentials, both educational and professional; it seems she has none worth mentioning. Her coyness and evasiveness about the schools she attended and where she’s Wow, this was terrible. Other reviews have mentioned how this is rife with errors, so I’ll just add one more: that the author doesn’t know the difference between shillings and pence. Add to that a lack of focus and a tone that manages to be both snooty and sneering as the author tries to be both in and out. Finally, I’d like to know her credentials, both educational and professional; it seems she has none worth mentioning. Her coyness and evasiveness about the schools she attended and where she’s been published in a book that’s ultimately about snobbery is telling.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John Behle

    Don't let those evening gloves on that pink mauve cover fool you — this is a terse, tense history of deep social revision. Kristen Richardson educates the reader through six centuries of debutante culture that arose from attempts to preserve, promote and propagate bastions of power and culture. From the English court of Elizabeth I through to our colonial days, blending research and vignettes, she traces the practice to New York, antebellum South and into the Gilded Age. Later chapters brings on Don't let those evening gloves on that pink mauve cover fool you — this is a terse, tense history of deep social revision. Kristen Richardson educates the reader through six centuries of debutante culture that arose from attempts to preserve, promote and propagate bastions of power and culture. From the English court of Elizabeth I through to our colonial days, blending research and vignettes, she traces the practice to New York, antebellum South and into the Gilded Age. Later chapters brings one to "The Texas Dip" curtsy, plus the growing practice of coming out balls in Russia and China. I thought debutante cotillions were so divergent from present day culture as to be inconceivable. To this, Richardson proves through nearly 300 pages that the "coming out" custom is dead but will never die. A solid three star. An illuminating peek into a rarely broached slice of society.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I read a book review that enticed me to read this book, but I probably should have known the subject matter would not interest me very much. In my opinion this should have been a magazine article, not a book. It did not have enough interesting information for a book-length piece. And basically, I don't care that much about the debutante scene.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    **Disclaimer** I won this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. This doesn't chance my review, but I thought I should mention it. I wasn't required to write this review, it just seemed polite to do so after getting a free book. An interesting and relatively quick read about a bit of history I hadn't though much about before My only complaints are really the lack of pictures and minimal period quotes/description. After all the mention of journals and letters in the introduction I found myself wanting to h **Disclaimer** I won this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. This doesn't chance my review, but I thought I should mention it. I wasn't required to write this review, it just seemed polite to do so after getting a free book. An interesting and relatively quick read about a bit of history I hadn't though much about before My only complaints are really the lack of pictures and minimal period quotes/description. After all the mention of journals and letters in the introduction I found myself wanting to hear more from the young women the book is chronicling. Also, how can a book with so many descriptions of gowns and balls not have even one picture of a dressed up debutante?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This was a fascinating history of Debutante traditions that is actually a social history of class, gender, and race. The tradition started in Great Britain after the nunneries closed up and people had to figure out what to do with their unmarriagable daughters. Fathers got the legislature to grant them veto power over their daughters' marriages so that they would not lower the family's class. In America, the Debutante ball was a class marker and it varied between north and south, black and white This was a fascinating history of Debutante traditions that is actually a social history of class, gender, and race. The tradition started in Great Britain after the nunneries closed up and people had to figure out what to do with their unmarriagable daughters. Fathers got the legislature to grant them veto power over their daughters' marriages so that they would not lower the family's class. In America, the Debutante ball was a class marker and it varied between north and south, black and white, new money and old.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Peck

    The irony is that in her book, that sneers at the rituals for young women to gain social connections in elite circles to enter that society with some renown and hopefully establish some wealth, she attends a debutante ball to gain some connections to this elite circle so she could better write her book and enter literary/academic society with some renown and make a bit of money. The author seems a bit miffed when at this party after she tells them she is a writer they all go a bit silent towards The irony is that in her book, that sneers at the rituals for young women to gain social connections in elite circles to enter that society with some renown and hopefully establish some wealth, she attends a debutante ball to gain some connections to this elite circle so she could better write her book and enter literary/academic society with some renown and make a bit of money. The author seems a bit miffed when at this party after she tells them she is a writer they all go a bit silent towards her as past writers who attended wrote sneering things about it. Though I do admit they only reason you would want and I wanted to read this book was to sneer at the weird things the elite do. The author did find many interesting things worth sneering. I would say overall the book is uneven. There are lines that should be paragraphs so paragraphs that should have been chapters and some chapters that would have been better omitted. The author tries to blend an academic and experiential narrative, it doesn't work well. I go so far to say that if they were developed separately each individual piece would be better than the whole of this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Gorman

    Listened to the audiobook. While relatively interesting and engaging, filling me with facts I had no prior knowledge of, I also did find myself zoning out at points. I’ve never been one for name-dropping, so some of the anecdotes that we’re centered around “prominent” figures or whatever just didn’t stick with me. The most interesting part for me is how this seemingly archaic tradition continues on in modern times, and is actually now being adopted by other countries like Russia and China, and ho Listened to the audiobook. While relatively interesting and engaging, filling me with facts I had no prior knowledge of, I also did find myself zoning out at points. I’ve never been one for name-dropping, so some of the anecdotes that we’re centered around “prominent” figures or whatever just didn’t stick with me. The most interesting part for me is how this seemingly archaic tradition continues on in modern times, and is actually now being adopted by other countries like Russia and China, and how the ritual is functioning in those places. Interesting read, but like many other reviewers here I also feel that subject matter like this is better supported by visuals. Honestly think this subject/book would make for a great documentary — would 100% watch it (night even be a case where the movie would be better than the book tbh).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    A thorough and fascinating account of the debutante as a both a catalyst for and product of social history. I came to this book with a voyeuristic and admittedly slightly sneering perspective on debutante culture. What I actually got was an enthralling and poignant socio-contextual history of the role and value of women in western society. Richardson does an outstanding job of taking a topic that feels niche (especially in this day and age) and applying its evolution to the study of the changin A thorough and fascinating account of the debutante as a both a catalyst for and product of social history. I came to this book with a voyeuristic and admittedly slightly sneering perspective on debutante culture. What I actually got was an enthralling and poignant socio-contextual history of the role and value of women in western society. Richardson does an outstanding job of taking a topic that feels niche (especially in this day and age) and applying its evolution to the study of the changing role of women. The correlations between different periods of American and European history with the debutante rituals at the time tells us a great deal about the culture in a broader context. We even get a look into globalization as reflected through the debutante world at the end of the book, where Richardson touches on nonwestern debuts. Fair warning: The book is incredibly dense and dry in parts, which is not in this case a bad thing, but did cause me to read it a chapter at a time spread out over several weeks in order to better enjoy it. *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily Parrow

    This was absolutely fascinating start to finish. The author has a well-supported, nuanced thesis that demonstrates the importance of diversity and family and cultural change while engaging with economics, literature, and politics over time. Richardson compared my guy Ward McAllister to Martha Stewart (!!), taught me about 18th century women's shoes not having a distinct right/left foot, explored the modern and commercial notion of the "celebutante," and taught me about the Texas Dip (I looked it This was absolutely fascinating start to finish. The author has a well-supported, nuanced thesis that demonstrates the importance of diversity and family and cultural change while engaging with economics, literature, and politics over time. Richardson compared my guy Ward McAllister to Martha Stewart (!!), taught me about 18th century women's shoes not having a distinct right/left foot, explored the modern and commercial notion of the "celebutante," and taught me about the Texas Dip (I looked it up on YouTube when I finished and I just--). I think it is fascinating how the ritual has certainly come a long way from being a marriage market, emphasizing today (with mixed results) ideas like career success, networking, etc., but I think Richardson draws the right conclusion when she says the debutante ritual retains its male-dominated principles. This book reminded me why I adore social histories. And women's history. I loved it so much!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    This book is profoundly sad. Maybe I got that impression because I just watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire and couldn't stop thinking about the sheltered constraints of Emily Gilmore in Gilmore girls especially when Rory agrees to come out, but maybe not. The research is excellent and the author tries to delve into all the facets she can and also maintains an understanding and sympathy for these women instead of judgement (that's not to say to let's them off the hook for some truly atrocious behavi This book is profoundly sad. Maybe I got that impression because I just watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire and couldn't stop thinking about the sheltered constraints of Emily Gilmore in Gilmore girls especially when Rory agrees to come out, but maybe not. The research is excellent and the author tries to delve into all the facets she can and also maintains an understanding and sympathy for these women instead of judgement (that's not to say to let's them off the hook for some truly atrocious behaviour, but provides context and nuance.) It's particularly disheartening that this tradition of ritualistic presentation continues outright on new rich economies like China and Russian or disguised as international bonding and things in America. I enjoyed the section of early 1900s new York the most, unsurprisingly, and the connections she drew from the first celebutantes to Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. I would love to read more of that discussion on another book or essay. It really hammered home that basically nothing is new and we're all just recreating the past with our new social and technological spheres.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    When we hear the word “Debutante” often we think of girls like Kathleen and Rosemary Kennedy being presented “at the Court of St. James”–i.e. to the British monarch. This event signaled their arrival at the upper-class “Tinder” of the day–the marriage market for the upper-classes. While we will hear about some British debs and their rituals and personalities, here at home, the United States also has a fairly rich debutante history of our own. Author Kristen Richardson explores the history, quirk When we hear the word “Debutante” often we think of girls like Kathleen and Rosemary Kennedy being presented “at the Court of St. James”–i.e. to the British monarch. This event signaled their arrival at the upper-class “Tinder” of the day–the marriage market for the upper-classes. While we will hear about some British debs and their rituals and personalities, here at home, the United States also has a fairly rich debutante history of our own. Author Kristen Richardson explores the history, quirks, rules, and events in each of America’s celebrated debutante “markets,” as well as that at Buckingham Palace. Obviously, New York tops the list–it is here that First Daughter Alice Roosevelt and her first cousin future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made their debuts. The Old South is another great deb area, as is Newport, Rhode Island where another future First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier made her debut. The marriage market aspect of the story included discussion of the “Dollar Duchesses.” like the fictional Cora Levison who marries Robert, Viscount Crawley and saves Downton Abbey. Her real-life sisters, their often scheming, social-climbing mothers are in here, don’t worry. The story of their Bright Young Thing daughters is given a nice outing, too. African American debutantes get a nice write-up here too with their sororities such as the mighty and powerful A.K.A.–letters after a name that are nearly as formidable in the United States–especially for businesswomen, as K.G. is in the United Kingdom My Thoughts This was a slower-reading book than I anticipated. It is well-researched and is an excellent addition to my personal social history collection.

  15. 5 out of 5

    TJL

    The author doesn't really make a secret of the fact that she went into this biased against Debutantes/Debuting, and so it's not surprising that the book basically has every ounce of information available to back up her presumptions. Literally at the end, she reiterates that the Debutante practices in the African-American community perform some good (scholarships, etc.) and then immediately dunks on them again by bringing up classism. In particular, it bothered me to see the chapters on Old New Y The author doesn't really make a secret of the fact that she went into this biased against Debutantes/Debuting, and so it's not surprising that the book basically has every ounce of information available to back up her presumptions. Literally at the end, she reiterates that the Debutante practices in the African-American community perform some good (scholarships, etc.) and then immediately dunks on them again by bringing up classism. In particular, it bothered me to see the chapters on Old New York and the Gilded Age. I've read books on this topic before (The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy) and it was telling that the author essentially glossed over the fact that women (not the daughters, but the mothers) were basically the driving force behind the social scene in New York, particularly the subject of debutantes and marriages. Men took a very backseat role to this, and generally just handed on money for gowns and other things to help the mothers promote their daughters. In a book more objective and interested in challenging the author's preconceived notions, I could dismiss this as accidentally overlooked; but in a book determined to convince us of the inherently misogynistic nature of the debutantes/debut season, I am inclined to take this as the author perhaps choosing to overlook it because this particular fact does not lend itself well to the beliefs she's set out to prove (i.e. "Debuting is a misogynistic practice where girls are forced to conform to patriarchal standards of womanhood".) This is a problem with a lot of feminist-aligned history books/analyses: They have a Point they want to make, and they have a tendency to skirt around inconvenient facts that don't line up with the narrative they're working with. The author's tone in this book is "women throughout history had no/barely any power like EVER and Debuting is a practice that encourages that"). Advice: Don't advertise your overt biases about a topic unless you KNOW you're going to be rigorously challenging/disproving them in the book. Because if I know you're biased against Debutantes/Debuting, I'm going to be paying really close attention to whether or not you challenge your own biases over the course of the book. And if you don't, I'm going to start wondering what facts might have been taken out of context, cherry-picked, or glossed over to fit your biases. ...Other than that, the book was like watching paint dry. Boring as hell.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    On the plus side, this book did compile a lot of facts about debutantes through the ages that I don't think many historians (read: men) would have bothered to do. On the negative side, it's heavily weighted in favour of American and recent traditions. What I really wanted was granular detail on how the Elizabethan 'withdrawing rooms' became the 'coming out' of Regency romances. However, Richardson isn't a historian, she's a journalist who got interested in this topic via her own experiences (des On the plus side, this book did compile a lot of facts about debutantes through the ages that I don't think many historians (read: men) would have bothered to do. On the negative side, it's heavily weighted in favour of American and recent traditions. What I really wanted was granular detail on how the Elizabethan 'withdrawing rooms' became the 'coming out' of Regency romances. However, Richardson isn't a historian, she's a journalist who got interested in this topic via her own experiences (described in exhaustive and uninteresting detail in the introduction). She has some milquetoast things to say about how current debutante practice doesn't exactly further the cause of feminism, except in black communities as a sort of consciousness-raising experiment. It fundamentally isn't her fault that I wanted this to be a different book, heavier on history than social commentary, but all the same, that's why I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected. That, and she makes some basic bitch Austen mistakes - 'Bennett' for 'Bennet', and describing Emma as having 'aunts' (the Bateses aren't relatives). Actually, the most interesting thing was that I could 'see' Anna Roosevelt as a beauty. Usually with old paintings and photographs all I can say is 'I presume you fit the beauty standards of your time but by mine you are ratched'. Anna - would happily swap faces with.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Miki

    Well written account of the centuries old custom of the selling of young women into marriage, thinly disguised as a coveted social event. A extremely distasteful fact is that some of the most well-known debutante events are headed by middle-aged white men, who meet together and choose their "favorite" young women to participate. The lucky girls are then escorted through presentation, dinners, and dancing by these old men. The practice still occurs among several levels of society, sometimes disgu Well written account of the centuries old custom of the selling of young women into marriage, thinly disguised as a coveted social event. A extremely distasteful fact is that some of the most well-known debutante events are headed by middle-aged white men, who meet together and choose their "favorite" young women to participate. The lucky girls are then escorted through presentation, dinners, and dancing by these old men. The practice still occurs among several levels of society, sometimes disguised as a method to make the young women "comfortable in society." Well worth reading if for nothing else than to realize underground and silent oppression of women still exists.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sona

    Interesting topic, but the book was dense and meandered. The writer included too many direct excerpts from primary sources rather than summarizing. Also, no mention was made about debuts and debutantes in other cultures within the US (i.e. Latinx, Filipino), which was disappointing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Ghidossi

    Fascinating book and subject matter. I grabbed this as an audio book and honestly didn't even know this was a non-fiction book. Kristen Richardson has done her homework. I must say I can better understand my favorite Jane Austen novels on a whole new level with the this information and importance of coming out to society. Sure enough after I listened to this book, Reese Witherspoon's daughter was just presented at the ball in France.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie Carlson

    Fascinating look at the debutante ritual. Richardson moves from the beginning of the debutantes in England to today's presentations in Russia and China. Lots of interesting historical tidbits thrown in. I was expecting fluff but this was an interesting book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan Dorsey

    Had to make myself finish this one. I did learn things from reading (hence the two stars), but the interesting facts did not offset the hours spent slogging through what felt like a college research assignment. Most of the book reads like a literature review— any novel, newspaper, or documentary mentioning the society season included. It is sprinkled with a few of the author’s personal experiences written in such a way to make her unlikable— (I felt of out place without my own kid leather deb pa Had to make myself finish this one. I did learn things from reading (hence the two stars), but the interesting facts did not offset the hours spent slogging through what felt like a college research assignment. Most of the book reads like a literature review— any novel, newspaper, or documentary mentioning the society season included. It is sprinkled with a few of the author’s personal experiences written in such a way to make her unlikable— (I felt of out place without my own kid leather deb party gloves.) The attempt at cultural criticism is shallow (all examples of racially disparate balls ignored any northeast examples and tended to focus on the south.) This book was a real disappointment.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) (2.5 stars) Sometimes, you just randomly checkout a book in a subject you wouldn't normally read about and decide to try it out. Such is the case with this book. Normally, I don't have any major interest in debutantes and high society, but I found this more interesting than expected. This work talks about the origins of the debutante and the various debutante balls, whereby upper class women would "officially" enter society, a transition from childhood to womanhood. The author grew u (Audiobook) (2.5 stars) Sometimes, you just randomly checkout a book in a subject you wouldn't normally read about and decide to try it out. Such is the case with this book. Normally, I don't have any major interest in debutantes and high society, but I found this more interesting than expected. This work talks about the origins of the debutante and the various debutante balls, whereby upper class women would "officially" enter society, a transition from childhood to womanhood. The author grew up in a family where such concepts were relevant and she goes back into US and English history to describe the back-story and evolution of the debutante. It is primarily the realm of the wealthy white affluent male (not always Southern) and his family. The showing off of women, particularly daughters for marriage, is as old as society itself, but the social status associated with the debutante, and how such actions were more than just auditions for marriage evolved from the rise of the British Empire and the growth of America. It is a world that would probably drive most crazy in this day and age, but one that dominated life in the upper rungs of society. It evolved as the role of women in society evolved, and while it is no longer like its heyday in the 18th and 19th century, it still exists in certain forms. The concept has had to evolve to account for the end of slavery, the rise of equal/civil rights and suffrage for women. In some cases, it still has a long way to go. Overall, the writing was engaging and I did learn some things. Perhaps since the author knew this world from her family, there was a sense of insider knowledge. Yet, while she does pay some lip-service to African-America attempts to engage in the debutante culture as an attempt to describe other American traditions, Richardson really misses the boat with discussions about the quinceanera in Hispanic culture. While not quite the exact same as the debutante culture, there are enough similarities, and if you are discussing the role of the debutante, especially in San Antonio, you need to acknowledge this fact. That she does not really limits the American scope of the work. If it was only focused on East Coast high society, fine, but she tried to expand the aperture, and badly missed some key concepts. Engaging at times, but with some major flaws. Keep that in mind if you should take this book for a try.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Liss Carmody

    Do you have a fascination with aristocracy, a fondness for western social traditions that reinvent themselves in subsequent waves over hundreds of years through huge cultural shifts, the role of womanhood (particularly young womanhood) in society, gatekeeping and how we use etiquette to denote who's part of the in set and who's not? Are you wondering why we still have debutants even though nobody gets married after a formal ball when they're nineteen? Are you confused when reading nineteenth cen Do you have a fascination with aristocracy, a fondness for western social traditions that reinvent themselves in subsequent waves over hundreds of years through huge cultural shifts, the role of womanhood (particularly young womanhood) in society, gatekeeping and how we use etiquette to denote who's part of the in set and who's not? Are you wondering why we still have debutants even though nobody gets married after a formal ball when they're nineteen? Are you confused when reading nineteenth century literature that talks about 'coming out' with nary an openly LGBTQ+ character in sight? The Season might be the book for you! Despite my passing familiarity with some of the customs of England's social Season circa 1800-1860, and my vaguely awareness that debutante balls in the US continue to exist to some degree, there was still plenty here for me to dig into. Debuts for young women of means have been going on for a long while, but in order to fulfill their role of shaping and shoring up social order in different times and places, the way they shift has changed widely. What was about drawing the line between landed gentry old-money families and the nouveau riche industrialists at one time became about brokering unsteady but important alliances between those groups across international lines, then shifted again to emphasize idealogical and aesthetic ideals and, eventually, modernized in different communities in different incarnations. The importance of exclusivity in fostering worth and the way that display increases power, fame, and social credit, and how all of this is born from the compliance and participation of young women is pretty fascinating sociological stuff. Along the way, there is lots of fun drama here about fashion, history, and protocol, and I eat that stuff up. I had some quibbles about Richardson's statements about Tudor cultural norms, but I think she did her research and the book is solid.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Temple Dog

    Kristen Richardson's The Season was not what I had expected. As a native of the South, I was quite familiar with the debutante ritual, but The Season goes beyond the superficial pageantry to present a historical viewpoint. From its post Protestant Reformation creation as an alternative to the Catholic nunnery to a haven for single women to its 21st Century Texas Dip. I found the subject fascinating, first because although I knew at its core the Debut was and still is an elite caste system to dis Kristen Richardson's The Season was not what I had expected. As a native of the South, I was quite familiar with the debutante ritual, but The Season goes beyond the superficial pageantry to present a historical viewpoint. From its post Protestant Reformation creation as an alternative to the Catholic nunnery to a haven for single women to its 21st Century Texas Dip. I found the subject fascinating, first because although I knew at its core the Debut was and still is an elite caste system to distinguish between the haves and the have nots, secondly, as a vehicle to marriage, but what intrigued me was Richardson’s analogy to the slave trade. How young girls were used as virtual chattel to maintain or advance their families’ fortunes. Granted, I knew the byproduct of a young lady’s “coming out” was an arranged marriage were in almost all cases a represented a mere transaction. But, it’s the first time I’ve seen it’s flagrant display of beauty, affluence and title to the slave market auctions. Richardson covers its origins in British aristocracy to the International Ball with its recent entry of Crazy Rich Asians and Russian Oligarchs. Both seeking elevated status for their class and the global exposure of their brands. Whereas the old-world Season included exclusive dance lessons and tea parties, the new world Season includes corporate etiquette training and international networking. There were times when she repeats herself incessantly and there are so many typos I just stop counting. But, in the end, I found a hard time putting it down. TD recommends.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christy Goldsmith

    It has been previously established that I don't like reading nonfiction for entertainment, but apparently the age of the pandemic broke me. I read quite a bit of enjoyable nonfiction in this time, and I'll have you know that I'm working to undo this new propensity of mine. Anyway, The Season is a text clearly written for folks who either (1) love reading Regency novels or (2) were English majors forced to read Regency novels for many years. I fall in the latter category. I have read Jane Austen It has been previously established that I don't like reading nonfiction for entertainment, but apparently the age of the pandemic broke me. I read quite a bit of enjoyable nonfiction in this time, and I'll have you know that I'm working to undo this new propensity of mine. Anyway, The Season is a text clearly written for folks who either (1) love reading Regency novels or (2) were English majors forced to read Regency novels for many years. I fall in the latter category. I have read Jane Austen and the Brontes and Maria Edgeworth and too many 18th century virtue novels to count. I do not like them, but I am fascinated by the function of gender in those texts. That's why I really liked The Season. As we talked about in my book club (shout out to T.H.!), the text was written for someone who knows these novels and who likely grew up watching Rory navigate similar modern debutante situations in the Gilmore Girls. That's a limitation, but otherwise, the book is well-researched, well-paced, and fascinating. I kind of wish that Richardson would've arranged the book thematically rather than chronologically so I could see how the threads are pulled through from Jane Austen's time to modern day St. Louis (really shocking vignette about our Missouri city on the River, too!). As it sits, it reads like an interesting encyclopedia with lots of great book references, but I did quite like it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla Herrington

    I was intrigued by the subject matter of this book - debutante balls or coming out parties - and I had seen a review that piqued my interest. Over all the book was interesting. I remember reading about debutante balls when I was growing up but I thought they had gone the way of Apparently not - Richardson described some very recent coming out events. The difference seemed to be that today's debutante is older than her predecessor and, more importantly, today's event is for the young woman to enh I was intrigued by the subject matter of this book - debutante balls or coming out parties - and I had seen a review that piqued my interest. Over all the book was interesting. I remember reading about debutante balls when I was growing up but I thought they had gone the way of Apparently not - Richardson described some very recent coming out events. The difference seemed to be that today's debutante is older than her predecessor and, more importantly, today's event is for the young woman to enhance her personal brand rather than being an opportunity for her father to posture and select a suitable husband for her. I would agree that this is a subject worthy of study, and I learned quite a lot as I read. However, there was one glaring error that made me question everything else presented. In the chapter, Transatlantic Crossings, she clearly confused George V with his son, George VI (p. 132). More than once I've been appalled at the lack of editing and/or proofreading in today's books; I find this especially egregious in a book that should be included in Women's History curricula. While this was the only error I noted, I wonder what was presented that I did not know was incorrect.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    When I think of what a debutante is, I have always thought of rich girls in white dresses at a big party being introduced to "society." The words exclusionary, elitist, vapid, pompous, and superficial also come to mind. This book traces the debutante experience from its origins in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where noblemen presented their daughters to the queen for her approval. As it evolved in British society, it became a "season," where young women of the nobility were brought out to find When I think of what a debutante is, I have always thought of rich girls in white dresses at a big party being introduced to "society." The words exclusionary, elitist, vapid, pompous, and superficial also come to mind. This book traces the debutante experience from its origins in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where noblemen presented their daughters to the queen for her approval. As it evolved in British society, it became a "season," where young women of the nobility were brought out to find suitable husbands, then a way for impoverished dukes to claim rich American women as wives in order to save their estates (a'la Downton Abbey). The tradition made its way to America, where it flourished in New York, Philadelphia and the South. Its popularity has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, and with the explosion of social media, has taken on a whole new meaning as a way for ambitious young women to "establish their brand." It has also caught on among the rich oligarchs in Russia and China as a way to flaunt their wealth through their daughters. This is a very readable, eye opening account of a outmoded ritual that somehow keeps a toehold in society.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review! We are seeing a resurgence in women's history, and finally are exploring topics long deemed frivolous. Kristen Richardson's history of the debutante is clever look at a social construction that dominated the lives of upper- and middle-class women for over 200 years. It played a crucial role in social connections and marriage prospects for these women, and could quickly change the trajectory of their lives. It could al Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review! We are seeing a resurgence in women's history, and finally are exploring topics long deemed frivolous. Kristen Richardson's history of the debutante is clever look at a social construction that dominated the lives of upper- and middle-class women for over 200 years. It played a crucial role in social connections and marriage prospects for these women, and could quickly change the trajectory of their lives. It could also hugely change life for their families (both birth family and married). Richardson ties the practice of debuting to larger social practices, and does a fantastic job of explaining the social impact on all parties, not just the young women in question. It did feel slightly jumpy, though. I perhaps would have stuck to one geographic region in a paragraph- the US is obviously a large country and jumping from New York in one sentence to the Carolinas in the next is a little harder to follow. However, it is still absolutely a great read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    Fancy balls, white dresses, white feathers, presentation at court; this sums up what I knew about debutantes before reading this elegant and well-researched book. In her introductory chapter Richardson tells us that the above traditions "originated and evolved in England and America quite simply because they were needed to solve a problem." Once, extra daughters (read, unmarriageable) were put into convents and forgotten about. With the Protestant Reformation, convents went away. The British ari Fancy balls, white dresses, white feathers, presentation at court; this sums up what I knew about debutantes before reading this elegant and well-researched book. In her introductory chapter Richardson tells us that the above traditions "originated and evolved in England and America quite simply because they were needed to solve a problem." Once, extra daughters (read, unmarriageable) were put into convents and forgotten about. With the Protestant Reformation, convents went away. The British aristocracy had to solve the problem of too many daughters, none of whom could inherit an estate, through well-connected marriages. Hence, the ritual (and business transaction) of the coming-out season. After reading this first chapter, we find that Pride and Prejudice, (and Mrs. Bennet's determined pursuit of Mr. Bingley), suddenly makes much more sense. Richardson takes us right up to present day and the evolution of the debutante tradition. Despite the need in some places for an editor with a better eye (Bennet is spelled with two t's!) this is an eye-opening read. Adult.

  30. 5 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I really wanted to like this book. The writing style of this book wasn't really for me. I was also really surprised there weren't pictures. There's a lot of talk about gowns and actions like the Texas Dip and not a single photo to capture it! I was expecting more history I guess, and maybe a deeper examination of debutantes in the 21st century when women typically aren't considered property at marriage anymore. I was also disappointed that the author only spends a few lines talking about the hist I really wanted to like this book. The writing style of this book wasn't really for me. I was also really surprised there weren't pictures. There's a lot of talk about gowns and actions like the Texas Dip and not a single photo to capture it! I was expecting more history I guess, and maybe a deeper examination of debutantes in the 21st century when women typically aren't considered property at marriage anymore. I was also disappointed that the author only spends a few lines talking about the history of women of color in debutante society and how women of color in particular have been excluded. She also uses language like 'free blacks' in this book, which was pretty surprising and worth a side eye. It's then unsurprising that there isn't a lot of talk about how debutante balls supported a white, patriarchal society and how that role continues today. The book wasn't for me, but had me Googline debutante gowns and the Texas Dip to see if it is as interesting as it sounds.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.