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Publisher's Summary

Welcome to the era of true marriages of convenience. Discover the reality of trading someone’s hand in marriage, such as an American heiress, in exchange for money, power, or political clout through compelling history lectures. Showcased in novels such as Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and in present day pop culture through works like Downtown Abbey, the Gilded Age was an era of contradictions. From the end of the Civil War to the start of World War I, life on both sides of the Atlantic was grimy and glamorous, prosperous and impoverished, traditional and revolutionary.

The US economy rose at the highest rate in its history in the 1870s and 1880s, enriching hundreds of families that were able to take advantage of the boom in industrialization and urbanization. Despite their wealth, many of these new-money clans still lacked the social standing they craved. For quite a few families, gaining entry into high society meant sending their daughters across the ocean to capture the hearts—and the lands and titles—of eligible European aristocrats.

Who were the young women (and men) who espoused these sensational alliances between the Old World and the newly wealthy? What motivated them? Did they find happiness along with their entrance into the highest echelons of society? In American Heiresses of the Gilded Age, Professor Melissa Ziobro of Monmouth University introduces listeners to some of the young women whose love lives shaped social norms, transatlantic relations, and even the US economy on a shockingly large scale. What do these "marriages of convenience" say about America at the turn of the century, and what kind of legacy did they leave behind?

Throughout these 10 lectures, listeners will get a fascinating review of the ways Americans both embraced and rebelled against the social hierarchies that rigidly defined life in the Gilded Age. These stories center on social maneuvering and alliances among the fabulously wealthy and are also highly personal experiences of broken hearts, strange bedfellows, and - occasionally - a happily-ever-after. 

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from American Heiresses of the Gilded Age

Chapter 1: Trading Cash for Class: The Dollar Princess Phenomenon
  • Chapter 1: Trading Cash for Class: The Dollar Princess Phenomenon
"It looks great on the outside but scratch just below the surface and all is not what it seems."
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Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
  • Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
"Who were these women and men? What motivated them?"
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Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
  • Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
Meet the wealthiest families in US history.
-0.00
  • Chapter 1: Trading Cash for Class: The Dollar Princess Phenomenon
  • "It looks great on the outside but scratch just below the surface and all is not what it seems."
  • Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
  • "Who were these women and men? What motivated them?"
  • Chapter 2: The Life of a Gilded Age Millionaire
  • Meet the wealthiest families in US history.

About the Professor

Melissa Ziobro is the Specialist Professor of Public History at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Her work at the university includes administration of the Monmouth Memories Oral History Program. Professor currently serves as the President of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region and as the editor for New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, a joint venture of the New Jersey Historical Commission, Rutgers University Libraries, and Monmouth University. She works regularly with public history organizations such as the Monmouth County Historical Commission, the InfoAge Science History Learning Center and Museum, and the Ocean County Historical Society. Her collaborations with the Monmouth County Historical Association include guest-curating the exhibit Tracking Sandy: Monmouth County Remembers and co-curating the exhibit Springsteen: His Hometown. Recognized as an engaging public speaker, Professor Ziobro has delivered her highly regarded talk on American heiresses, or "dollar princesses," to a wide range of audiences, both academic and popular.

Featured Article: The Gilded Age in History and Fiction


While fans of Julian Fellowes’s Gilded Age may be gagging on the luxurious costumes and sumptuous sets, part of the fun is sorting out fact from fiction in the HBO period drama. With a mix of invented characters and actual historical figures—such as society queen Caroline Astor and African American newspaper editor and civil rights leader T. Thomas Fortune—enthusiasts have plenty of resources available so they can learn the truth about the extravagant era when wealthy railroad magnates and other arrivistes were upending late 19th-century New York City society and culture.

What listeners say about American Heiresses of the Gilded Age

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  • Kg
  • 04-06-20

Repetitive and shallow

This lecturer assumes that listeners are stupid - repeating herself endlessly and defining well-known terms. She acts out quotes in an irritating way and mispronounces several terms.

She equates everything to pop culture.

A shame to have such silly coverage of an interesting topic.

9 people found this helpful

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I Just Can't Even

Nothing new in this short series.
Lots of repetition.
The only "original" aspect of this series is the way in which the lecturer consistently mispronounces English place names and other assorted words.
These lectures should be better curated.

6 people found this helpful

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Could use more work

The author's voice needs work. Listening through earbuds is a completely different proposition than hearing a lecture in a classroom. A modulated voice in the classroom might put students to sleep. A well-modulated voice is my choice when listening through earbuds. The author's voice is sharp like knives in my ear. Also, she mispronounces words and drops her T's so "Britain" sounds like Bri-en. Every time she said it made me wince. Very distracting.
The author also would have benefited from having a fact-checker or even another historian review her work.
Edward the Vlll became King of England upon the death of his father but he was never "crowned". He renounced his throne before he went through that very important ceremony called a coronation. Everybody who knows anything about Edward and Wallis knows that.
Also, the author incorrectly stated that a concubine was the same as a Geisha. It isn't. That is a lazy scholarship.
Interesting that The Great Courses would put its name in this.

4 people found this helpful

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Terrible narration

Why in earth would someone not notice that that high pitched voice was meant for children’s books. I had to stop listening

3 people found this helpful

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Why can’t she pronounce the letter T???

Loved the subject matter and co tent but the narrator cannot pronounce the letter T - as in British, matter, maintain…. Sounds like “Bri’ish)”. Etc

She sounds like a teenager and it is distracting.

3 people found this helpful

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Glad I didn’t pay for this one

This short series feints at being a proper if light historical presentation with phrases like “the dollar princess phenomenon” and lectures organized to examine the topic from multiple angles. Maybe it’s because this subject doesn’t have a lot of research behind it in the first place, but it mostly comes across as a summary of google searches and other more thorough books. The lecturer’s pronunciation of English place names is noticeably bad.

There was also an instance of pronouncing “geisha” as “geesha” and calling geishas courtesans without contextualizing whether this was a matter of ignorance and racism on the part of the Victorian speaker or ignorant and racist editorializing by the lecturer. When there’s a potentially egregious false presumption, it calls into question the rest of the lecturer’s research and knowledge.

3 people found this helpful

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repetition & pronunciation

I love this topic, but she repeats herself at the beginning of every chapter. And her pronunciation throws me out of the story regularly. A university professor should pronounce words correctly. She drops every T in the middle of a word (Bri-UN for Britain, sa-UN for satin) etc, She also mispronounces European words when her topic is largely about Europe (JockS for Jacques, Blen-hime for Blenem - referring to Blenheim Castle. It takes away from her credibility.

1 person found this helpful

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Nooooooo

This is the absolute, most horrible narration, EVER!!!
Wish I could delete it!!! Terrible pronunciation on the word Britain. I thought I would pull my hair out, and I did give it a good trial. Her voice is not that of a narrator.

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Great story. Poor narration.

The subject matter is fascinating. Unfortunately, the narrator sounds like a 1980s Valley Girl. I had to listen in small doses. The author gives many "To learn more, read _________ , " tips, which I appreciate.

1 person found this helpful

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It's not a book, it's an opinionated podcast!

I was expecting to "read" the story. But the author/reader's snide tone of voice, and her snide comments about her subjects because of their fathers' wealth were a real barrier to actually getting to the story. This is supposed to be a book about an interesting historical phenomenon -- why should she showcase her opinions instead? Whatever happened to objectivity?

1 person found this helpful

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  • Timothy Heath
  • 08-28-21

Terrible Narrator!

I stopped listening five-minutes in. The narrator speaks so fast it’s hard to hear what she’s talking about. Who decided she’d be a good narrator? Complete waste of time.

4 people found this helpful

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  • A. Moorhouse Sacred Earth
  • 11-26-21

so many better books

the author/ narrator has the worst pronunciation of any narrator I have ever heard. I had to rewind to listen again to what she was saying just to make sense of it. Only got an hour in and had to give up.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-26-21

Great!

Very interesting book about a subject I knew little about. Very informative and entertaining! One thing, though the lecturer is very animated and easy to listen to, her pronunciation of the vast majority of British towns, persons and words is truly appalling to any British listener!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cynders
  • 02-22-22

I really tried..

I am an American, living in the UK. I *really* did try to get over the author's poor pronunciations (even the word Britain was mangled. How do you *do that*?) Most people said she spoke too fast, which I hardly noticed because I speak like a speed demon myself. It was the over dramatised enphasis on certain words or drawing them outwith that dramtic tone that annoyed me. It was like using all caps to shout on the internet. I am sure the author/narrator has something interesting to say in the book, but darned if I could wait to get there. I was too distracted by her speaking/reading style. Maybe she shoud have had the publisher hire a professional narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rachel Gilyeat
  • 02-20-22

Interesting but mispronunciation many words.

The I curb stink given us interesting and compelling, several important factors as to the motivation behind upper class poverty nut considered. Unfortunately, the mispronunciation of many words, common terms, English names and places is irritating.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Corsaire
  • 12-20-21

Didn't quite get to the point

An interesting subject, but the writer spent too long saying the same thing over and over again in the first couple of episodes. We understand that American heiresses and British aristocrats often intermarried in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I was hoping for more in the way of well-researched individual cases - and perhaps these do surface later on in the series. I'm afraid I lost interest after one and a half episodes.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Angelcritique
  • 11-09-21

Interesting

If you can put up with the nasal, incisive, strident voice of the narrator there are some interesting insights here. The numerous mispronunciations jar..... and the author claims that Edward V111th was crowned king...... when he wasn't. Thankfully I haven't paid for this as it was free.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 08-07-22

Dreadful narrator, weak storyline

Dreadful narrator weak storyline
Try The Husband Hunters by Anne De Courcy
Superior excellent read

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  • Jacqueline
  • 08-01-22

Fascinating

What a brilliant background to this time in history, the Guided Age . Well read in an engaging manor. Anyone who has seen Guided Age or Downton will enjoy this .

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  • CATHERINE
  • 06-23-22

Terrible narration, but a good insight

This was interesting and free, so can’t complain, but I will.
The narrater seemed unable to say the letter t which was very off putting and annoying. Briin instead of Britain, and so on.

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  • Dudley
  • 12-28-19

Wikipedia & newspapers are references !

I expected a Great Course quality.

It was a good listen but the reader should have been told that it was really a poorly researched yarn.

Perhaps more for a popular tabloid rag.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Deirdre E Siegel
  • 10-13-21

How much are you going to spend to make me happy Father.

:-) humorous recollections of the American money spent to purchase men, titles and stately piles of the European royalty and aristocracy.
Most enjoyable listen, thank you Melissa :-)

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