When writer Susan Gillotti discovered a treasure trove of family documents, she knew that she needed to give voice to the female characters whose legacy - both good and bad - she inherited. The wealthy female relatives who descended from the blue-blood Sarah Minerva Schieffelin might have lived perfect lives on the surface, but when Gillotti delved into documents like diaries and letters, she encountered mental illness, alcoholism, opium addiction, and other family secrets. Kathleen Murphy has an eloquent grasp of this copiously documented audiobook, which often sounds more like a novel than a memoir, due to Gillotti's use of dialogue in scene and her interest in how characters interacted.
Women of Privilege traces the decline of a once-privileged Hudson River Valley family where the neighbors were Vanderbilts, Delanos, and Roosevelts. Susan Gillotti provides insight into her ancestors' heretofore secret lives, culled from private diaries, letters, and journals of the three generations of women who inhabited Grasmere - one of the great houses of the Hudson River Valley. On the surface, their lives seem ideal, but beneath that facade, there was mental illness, alcoholism, yearning for divorce, and questions of sexual identity.