Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s home in Washington, DC, that is now a museum and gardens, is one of the museums in DC that not very many people know about. I happen to know about it because I live nearby and it is one of my mother’s favorite places. Marjorie liked beautiful, expensive things, and Hillwood is a museum that reflects that. She was a person that had a great deal of influence over politicians and society ladies, but history has mostly forgotten her. Except as the butt of jokes for how tacky Mar-a-Lago is, since photographs of it have been in the news a great deal.
The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Merriweather Post is historical fiction, but it reads much more like an autobiography. Marjorie Post was the sole heir to CW Post’s cereal empire. The book is a good balance of Marjorie’s personal and professional life. And that is what is so fascinating about her; she played a huge role in the company even though she couldn’t serve as the President or CEO. She worked through her husbands to implement her ideas. And that was another unique thing about her, though a huge influence on society in New York, Florida, and Washington, DC among the very wealthy, she married and divorced four times. When her husbands treated her badly, or were caught with other men in the case of one, she just divorced them. I did think about whether she could truly be in any relationship on equal footing as incredibly wealthy as she was. Her first husband brought some interesting thoughts on “new” money vs. “old” money, but by husband no. 2 it seemed there was just money. She uses husband no. 2 to expand the Post empire into what will become General Foods.
One section of the book really had me thinking about wealth and the key to staying wealthy. CW Post divorced and got a much younger wife before he died. Perhaps she used some license to make things more dramatic, but the author makes it sound like Marjorie used her wealth, connections, and attorneys to make sure the young wife got no money from the Post company. So even though she had more money than she could ever use in her life, she was unwilling to share any of it. That is how the ultra wealthy stay wealthy, by stepping on other people.
Anyway, I did really like this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. If you like historical fiction that spans many decades in time and explores the US relationship with other countries, including Russia, you will like this book. And do go visit Hillwood, it is nothing like Mar-a-Lago.