The Rise of Wealthy Women as Key Cultural Figures in Gilded Age New York City

Not long before iconic socialites like Alva Vanderbilt and (The) Mrs. Astor were commanding New York City high society, the city was struggling to establish an elite culture comparable to European metropolises such as London or Paris. However, during the 1870s, through marriage, pedigree, and New York’s wealthy families’ competition for status, the culture of the elite began to take solid shape. With the creation of hubs of wealth, like New York’s Fifth Avenue, and the attainability of glimpses into socialite culture, women of the Gilded Age shifted the culture of affluence to the level of a spectacle.¹


¹ Homberger, Eric. Mrs. Astor's New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age. Yale University Press, 2004


Ariana Eggleston