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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.
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  • 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.

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.

7 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.

5 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.

1 person 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.

1 person found this helpful

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fascinating social history of dollar princesses

The title is a bit misleading as it is not on all gilded age heiresses but specifically those who married into the European aristocracy. There is a lot of interest in these marriages as implicit exchange of money for titles and in criticism of the same, much of it on simple grounds of nationalistic horror at capital leaving the country.

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Excellent listen!

This audiobook was as delightful as a season of Downton Abbey. Focused on women’s history, it shows how these socialites from America obtained high status in Britain, how Americans marrying dukes was so commonplace in the era that it became a stereotype of the system.

There were about 9 of these marriages focused on in great detail - marriages of such family names as Vanderbilt and Churchill. Many more notable weddings were mentioned in passing, like how Lady Diana Spencer (HRH Princess Diana) had a great-grandmother who was herself American, brought into the Spencer family during the cash-for-class arrangement era of British noblemen of titles and American women of wealth.

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Interesting and Varied

This lecture series exposed me to the economic impact of the dollar princesses which I had not considered prior. It is also interesting to learn that Churchill’s mother was a dollar princess. Without his leadership during the war, there may have been a different outcome for Britain.

The performance was grating. Delivered in a valley girl accent (?) with condescending overtones at times.

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Just not enjoyable

The lecturer sounds enthusiastic about the subject however this just not an enjoyable listen. Not quite a NJ accent, but definitely not pleasant to listen to; Britain pronounced as Bri-en, repetitive, etc.

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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.

1 person found this helpful