The Half-Sisters: Rosamond Pinchot and Mary Meyer

Some time ago, I read a biography of Mary Pinchot Meyer, the wife of American diplomat Cord Meyer, the niece of Gifford Pinchot, the sometime mistress of John F. Kennedy, and the victim of a murder on the Georgetown canal towpath. The book, “A Very Private Woman” by Nina Burleigh, was very interesting.

Now, at random, I picked up a very recent book entitled “The Loveliest Woman in America”, the story of Rosamond Pinchot, a wealthy young woman, who was an actress, a member of the highest of society, and an individual who came from a very troubled, and very unusual background which she was not able to overcome, and who took her own life.

I was surprised reading the book to learn that Rosamond Pinchot and Mary Meyer shared a father, and were half sisters.

Rosamond was pegged in the early 1920’s, while a teenager, to star in a Broadway play, and became the talk of the country. While her acting career was sporadic, and while she spent some time on sabbatical from her society background, she was a very public person, who spent time not only with the landed gentry of the country, but also the Hollywood and Broadway moguls, and even Eleanor Roosevelt and Elizabeth Arden.

She killed herself when in her thirties. And it turned out that she was a consistent diarist, whose writings were lost for 70 years, and then discovered and turned over to her granddaughter (who never met her), Bibi Gaston, the author of the book. “The Loveliest Woman in America” is an oddly structured book, going back and forward in time, telling the story of Rosamond, the Pinchots in general, Rosamond’s odd husband (until he abandoned the family) Little Bill Gaston, and Gaston’s equally talented but unstable father, Big Bill. In addition, in italics, you hear the story of the author herself, and her tribulations as she found her life as a landscape architect.

The book is a bit hard to follow, and I found it a bit hard to keep the various family members (and the generations) straight, but it provides an interesting story of a unique woman who, in relatively few years, hit the highest and lowest points that life has to offer.

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