Name variations: Betty Harkness. (Perhaps this is a tale that inspired the Swift lyric, “She had a marvelous time ruining everything.”) Fittingly, she and her finishing school friends dubbed themselves the Bitch Pack. The Return of Concorde: Is this the most glamorous Christmas present for 2020? Rebekah the Socialite Though Harkness came from money, she achieved a new status level with her marriage (Harkness’ second) to William Hale Harkness, courtesy of … © 2020 Condé Nast. Rebekah Harkness married heir to Fortune Standard Oil. Tabloids became fascinated with Harkness as she was known for being an eccentric, who filled her pool with Dom Pérignon and dyed her neighbor's cat green following an argument. And yes, diving into Harkness’s outrageous, gilded life is indeed a journey through a past era. Harkness supported medical research on Parkinson's disease. She was 67 years old. Rebekah Harkness was born in 1915 to a rich, emotionally frigid St. Louis family. [2] Neither parent was involved in the upbringing of the children, leaving them to be raised primarily by nannies. [2] Raised primarily by nannies, Harkness took up dancing and ice skating to lose weight and was highly disciplined in both endeavors. Rebekah Semple West was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1915. Babe Paley, one of Truman Capote’s swans. [4] Harkness also surrounded herself with other well-known people, like yogi B.K.S. Let’s start from the beginning. [23] In 2020, Swift wrote the song "The Last Great American Dynasty" for her eighth studio album Folklore (2020), in which she tells Harkness' life story. But the result was disastrous. Where Harkness had her Bitch Pack, Swift’s group of friends had a much-scrutinized squad. Rebekah Harkness, as seen in the December 1956 issue of. Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982)American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. In her day, Harkness was as much of a media darling as Swift is now, and often the target of unfavorable headlines and press coverage. The Harknesses were married for a brief period—just seven years. [22], Harkness' "Holiday House" in Watch Hill, Rhode Island was acquired in 2013 by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. She was briefly married to a photographer before marrying philanthropist William Hale Harkness, half-brother of Henry Flagler, in 1945. Read next. She was brought up by a nanny who was chosen because she had worked in … [5] Through the Rebekah Harkness Foundation, Harkness sponsored Jerome Robbins and the Joffrey Ballet. Her parents hired a nanny for Harkness specifically because she "had worked in an insane asylum," and then Harkness went to finishing school, where she decided to "do … The best new culture, style, and beauty stories from Vogue, delivered to you daily. “Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train / It was sunny,” Taylor Swift croons in her new song “The Last Great American Dynasty.” In 3 minutes 51 seconds, Swift tells the story of Harkness’s legacy through lyrics. They picked out a home and called it "Holiday House" Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud. The Holiday House was once owned by Rebekah Harkness. At the end of the song, she suggests a certain satisfaction regardless of the answer: “There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen / I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”. She used much of her inheritance to become a patron of the ballet, as well as to compose music. [4], In the 1960s, Harkness became well known as a philanthropist and patron of the arts. A year later, she married William Hale Harkness, a wealthy investor and a co-founder of Time magazine. Harkness had three husbands. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her marriage to William Hale "Bill" Harkness, an attorney and heir to the Standard Oil fortune of William L. Harkness, made her one of the wealthiest women in America. Toward the end of her life, Harkness also began taking testosterone injections and pills in order to keep dancing, however these did not help and instead caused a dependance on testosterone.[14]. Meet the previous resident of Swift's stately mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. She was born Rebekah Semple West in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. But why? [2], After graduating in 1932, she and a group of female friends formed the Bitch Pack, a sub-culture of local debutantes who enjoyed subverting society events, including lacing punchbowls with mineral oil and performing stripteases on banquet tables. She married her second husband, Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness, in 1947. Putting mineral oil in the punch at her sister’s debutante ball. [21], Harkness died of stomach cancer in her Manhattan home on June 17, 1982. Thomson Asks States to Sue the U.S.", "Out of Prison, Doctor Hopes to Regenerate His Lost Fame", "Taylor Swift is buying into a rich Watch Hill tradition", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rebekah_Harkness&oldid=995193859, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia articles with SNAC-ID identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 19 December 2020, at 19:08. She filled a pool with Champagne. Born Rebekah Semple West, Harkness was a patron of the arts and philanthropist. The two purchased a mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which they nicknamed Holiday House. Harkness was friends with a young Potter Stewart, whom she affectionately called "Potsie," and their relationship was written about by her biographer Craig Unger. Many believe that … A philanthropist. Edward Stephen Harkness (January 22, 1874 – January 29, 1940) was an American philanthropist.Given privately and through his family's Commonwealth Fund, Harkness' gifts to private hospitals, art museums, and educational institutions in the Northeastern United States were among the largest of the early twentieth century. [7] In addition to founding the Harkness Ballet, Harkness launched a ballet school and home for the company called Harkness House,[8] as well as a refurbished 1,250-seat theater, which presented the Harkness Ballet and other dance companies to New York audiences. [19], In 1974, she married Niels H. Lauersen, another physician, who was 20 years her junior. 1940) and Anne Terry Pierce (b. Their wedding took place at 730 Park Avenue, which was William’s apartment. Being a patron of the ballet was Rebekah’s passion. Swift explains it briefly in a verse—Harkness once owned Holiday House, the singer’s current Watch Hill, Rhode Island, home. Iyengar[4] and Salvador Dalí, who would design her urn upon her death. In addition to her marriage to one of the wealthiest men in the country, Harkness also became well known for her eccentricities, as well as her contributions to the arts. Here, we … Although she came from a well-off Midwest family, William and his fortune put Rebekah into a different social stratosphere. Following her death, a memorial was held at the family home before Harkness was cremated, and her ashes were placed in a $250,000 spinning urn designed by Salvador Dalí, then placed in the Harkness Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery. [3] Edith married Kenneth Perry McKinnon in 1971,[16] and was in and out of mental institutions before eventually committing suicide after many attempts, just months following her mother's death. The Robert Joffrey Company summer workshop at Rebekah Harkness' Watch Hill estate in Rhode Island, July 1962. Due to her family's wealth, she was raised by a series of nannies, and attended a finishing school after High School. Harkness' passions for dance and music followed her into adulthood. But equally unapologetic as Swift. Rebekah Harkness, who also went by Betty, was the previous owner of Taylor Swift's Rhode Island home and serves as the inspiration for the third track on her latest album In December 1956, she even appeared in the pages of Vogue. [15] They divorced in 1965. Their wedding took place at 730 Park Avenue, which was William’s apartment. An artist (a descriptor she bestowed upon herself). It tells the story of Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness. She soon became the owner of a vast amount of properties, and indulged in many luxuries. The question Swift would have you ask is how much of this reputation was deserved and how much was the result of gossip or judgmental peers. Together, the pair resided in Rhode Island, in a home called "Holiday House" that Swift now owns. Rebekah Harkness married the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. She even hosted a ballet workshop there for 20 dancers from the Robert Joffrey Company (now known as the Joffrey Ballet) in 1965. Harkness donated $2 million to the William Hale Harkness Medical Research Building at the New York Hospital. She married her second husband, Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness, in 1947. Scevers had a disdain for Harkness's family, and was one of the last people to speak with Harkness alive. [3] Harkness would also continue to study dance and piano, and studied ballet with Victoria Cassau, who was a student of Anna Pavlova. St. Louis, MO 63119 She was 67.) She also studied orchestration with Lee Hoiby and received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire, in 1968. The widow went on to marry twice more, for a total of four marriages throughout her lifetime. Ad Choices. Harkness was born an heir to a banking fortune and grew up in St. Louis, then attended finishing school in South Carolina, where she pursued her passion for music and dance. NEW YORK -- Rebekah West Harkness, noted patron of the dance and medical research, is dead at 67. In the first verse of “The Last Great American Dynasty”, Swift sings that the ceremony “was charming, if a little gauche / There’s only so far new money goes”. [24], "Anne Pierce, 1962 Debutante, Married to Anthony McBride", "Rebekah West Harkness, 67, Patron of Dance and Medicine", "Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982) | Encyclopedia.com", "Harkness Ballet Takes the Bid Step to Broadway", "Patrician of the Dance; Rebekah West Harkness", "The Dance: Rebekah Harkness Ballet Goes Dutch; Madrigalesco' Given American Premiere 3 Other Works Offered as Troupe Returns", "Harkness House Opened as Home For Ballet Arts; Lynda Johnson Attends -- City s Medal Given To Woman Donor", "The Humble Beginnings Of an Elegant Mansion", "The story of Rebekah Harkness is way more complicated than Taylor Swift lets on", "Spoiled Facts About Rebekah Harkness, The Last Great American Heiress", "Miss Edith H. Harkness Wed To Kenneth Mckinnon, Lawyer", "Benjamin H. Kean, Shah's Physician, Dies at 81", "Notes on People; Gov. Swift and Aaron Dessner co-wrote The Last Great American Dynasty based on the eccentric life of socialite Rebekah Harkness, who was known to … Allen shot and killed a man in a brawl and was charged with second-degree murder, the charge eventually being reduced to manslaughter[4], with Allen serving a total of eight years. In her obituary, she’s credited with supporting the Joffrey and Jerome Robbins ballet companies. Born in 1915 in St Louis, Missouri, Harkness was the second daughter of prominent stockbroker Allen Tarwater and his wife, also named Rebekah. A New York Times article described Harkness's unusual upbringing. First, a brief biography: Born Rebekah Semple West in St. Louis in 1915, Harkness was a divorcée whose second marriage was to Standard Oil heir William Hale Harkness. In 1946, when Annabelle was 2, her mother divorced Dickson Pierce. The song focuses on Rebekah Harkness, a divorcee who famously married into the Standard Oil fortune in 1947, and patron to several New York City dance companies. The wedding was charming, if a little gauche. Upon her death in 1982, Rebekah Harkness was called many things in her New York Times obituary. The caption read: “A young woman with a surprising range of interests, Mrs. Harkness is a sculptor, a musician of professional standing (she’s a member of ASCAP), a skier (she’ll soon off to her chalet in Gstaad with her three children for a holiday), and an active supporter of many charities.” Below her in the spread? Rebekah married William Hale Harkness, the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. She was the second daughter of three children to Allen Tarwater West, a stockbroker and co-founder of G. H. Walker & Co., and Rebekah Cook (née Semple) West. (Her reasoning was thus: “I hope the beauty of Harkness House will persuade some of these people that ballet need not be dingy and that by their patronage they are contributing to the splendid and glamorous.”) Yet disagreements over artistic direction led to the company’s disbanding in 1970. [1] Her grandfather founded the St. Louis Union Trust Company. Her grandfather founded the St. Louis Union Trust Company, ensuring she grew up comfortably. It’s estimated she spent the 2020 equivalent of $86 million on the endeavor. Born Rebekah Semple West on April 17, 1915, in St. In the first verse of “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Swift sings that the ceremony “was charming, if a little gauche / There’s only so far new money goes.”. There's only so far new money goes. [9][15] Following the divorce, Harkness gained custody of both children. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated as of 1/1/21) and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement (updated as of 1/1/21) and Your California Privacy Rights. After her husband's death in 1954, Harkness embarked on her own creative endeavors. Harkness had already been married and divorced once when she married Will Harkness in 1947. The couple married in 1947 and purchased the seaside Rhode Island home that Taylor now owns and named it ‘Holiday House.’. Her 1955 tone poem, Safari Suite, was performed at Carnegie Hall, and in 1957 she released an album titled Music With a Heartbeat. [13] Many of her neighbors at her Holiday House in Watch Hill, RI complained about her extravagant parties and how she would allow her dancers to practice under a geodesic dome she had placed on her front lawn. [6] When the Joffrey Ballet refused to rename their company in Harkness' honor, she withdrew funding and hired most of the Joffrey dancers to her new company, the Harkness Ballet. Rebekah Harkness became one of the wealthiest women in America after she inherited her husband’s vast Standard Oil fortune when he died in 1953. [20] They divorced in 1977. The latest fashion news, beauty coverage, celebrity style, fashion week updates, culture reviews, and videos on Vogue.com. Their Rhode Island estate, Holiday House, was the site of some raucous Gatsby-esque parties: Blue Blood recalls that Harkness once filled her pool with Dom Perignon (which, oddly, was not the only liberty she took with libations: it’s also said she put scotch in her fish tank). The only problem was that the urn was too small. Before his death in August 1954, they had one child together; Edith Hale Harkness (1948–1982). “Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory,” Swift says of the inspiration behind her album, Folklore. After her husband passed away in 1954, Harkness poured more money into her Watch Hill compound, installing 8 kitchens and 21 baths. Harkness drew glares for her parties at Holiday House, as did Swift: Who could forget the frenzy over her celeb-studded Fourth of July bash? Others tell of sumptuous real-life figures like Rebekah Harkness, a divorcee who married the heir to Standard Oil — and whose home Swift purchased 31 years after her death. [17], In 1961, Harkness married Ben Kean (c. 1912–1993),[18] a physician who was a professor of Tropical Medicine at the Cornell Medical College. All rights reserved. Who Is Rebekah West Harkness? [4], On October 1, 1947, Harkness married William Hale Harkness (1900–1954), the son of William Lamon Harkness, both Standard Oil heirs. Source for information on Harkness, Rebekah (1915–1982): Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia dictionary. Vogue may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Before the performance, Swift explained the story behind the tune: It's about Rebekah Harkness, a real character who owned Swift's Rhode Island mansion before she did. [3] [4], On June 10, 1939, Harkness married Dickson W. Pierce, the son of Thomas M. Pierce and a descendant of Franklin Pierce. A New York Times the article describes Harkness’s unusual upbringing. She poured money into Harkness House, a dance studio meant to mimic the grandeur of European ballet schools, outfitting it with a marble staircase, silk shades, and a crystal chandelier. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. However, the connection between the two women, despite being eras apart, may go beyond mere real estate. [2][4] During her final days, Harkness began to reconcile with her children. She attended finishing school at the Fermata School for Girls in Aiken, South Carolina, whose other alums included Roosevelts and Auchinclosses. Rebekah Harkness inherited the vast Standard Oil fortune after her husband William Harkness died in 1953; the couple purchased the seaside mansion in … Harkness, the anti-heroine of “The Last Great American Dynasty,” was born in 1915 and married her second of four husbands, Standard Oil tycoon William Hale Harkness, in 1947. In 1947, Rebekah married husband number two, Standard Oil heir William "Bill" Harkness, whom she met at Watch Hill, her parents' summer holiday mansion in Rhode Island. The subject of “Folklore” music “The Final Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a prosperous, emotionally frigid St. Louis household,” in accordance to the New York Situations, and in 1947 married William Hale Harkness, her 2nd spouse and heir to the Common Oil fortune. [14], Known for having many lovers throughout her life, her final lover was a man by the name of Bobby Scevers,[14] a dancer who was 25 years her junior and a self-identified homosexual. That’s why Swift says people are already gossiping about Harkness and wondering how a … It’s here where Rebekah catapulted into high society. Now she has one more posthumous title: muse. She even started a company of her own in 1964: the Harkness Ballet. A patron of dance and medicine. Donning a black chiffon Mainbocher dress with a white silk back-tied apron, she flashed a wry smile at the camera. Swift’s new song, ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ is about Rebekah Harkness, the eccentric socialite who previously lived in the Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion that Swift purchased in 2015 Rebekah Harkness inherited the vast Standard Oil fortune after her husband William Harkness died in 1953; the couple purchased the seaside mansion in 1947 as newlyweds and named it ‘Holiday House’ She said she married her first, photographer Dickson Pierce, because she “had nothing else to do.” No surprise, that union ended in divorce. The couple had a private ceremony attended by Rebekah's parents, her children Allen and Terry, along with William's daughter with his ex-wife Elizabeth. Read next. The subject of “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a rich, emotionally frigid St. Louis family,” according to the New York Times, and in 1947 married William Hale Harkness, her second husband and … When she died in 1982, Harkness had demanded her ashes be put in a $250,000 jeweled Salvador Dalí urn. The wedding was charming, if a little gauche There's only so far new money goes The newly married couple moved into "Holiday House," but after suffering two heart attacks William Harkness died in 1954 leaving Rebekah an exorbitantly wealthy widow. Rebekah Harkness in 1966, Taylor Swift in 2020. A philanthropist, Harkness supported the Joffery Ballet for years, as well as the Harkness Ballet Foundation and the William Hale Harkness Foundation. 1944). The mansion was once owned by Rebekah Harkness, a high profile socialite who famously married into the Standard Oil fortune. She attended the Rossman School and John Burroughs School in St. Louis, and then the Fermata School for Girls in Aiken, South Carolina, which she graduated from in 1932. (Yes, the seaside mansion that was the setting for Taymerica.) The couple was married just seven years before William passed away of a heart attack, leaving the Harkness fortune and Holiday House to Rebekah. Anne married Anthony McBride in 1966[1] and had a severely brain-damaged baby who died at age 10. Rebekah West Harkness, a philanthropist who gave millions to the dance and to medicine, died of cancer Thursday in her Manhattan home. In 1915, Rebekah West was born in St. Louis to Mr. and Mrs. Allen Tarwater West. [12], Following the death of her second husband, William Hale Harkness, Rebekah inherited his fortune. Rebekah West Harkness (April 17, 1915 – June 17, 1982) also known as Betty Harkness, was an American composer, sculptor, dance patron, and philanthropist who founded the Harkness Ballet. The subject of “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Harkness — née Rebekah Semple West — was born in 1915 to “a rich, emotionally frigid … [1] Before their divorce in 1946, they had two children; Allen Pierce (b. [9] Through the William Hale Harkness Foundation, she sponsored construction of a medical research building at the New York Hospital and supported a number of medical research projects. To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories. Yet it’s also impossible to avoid drawing parallels between Swift and Harkness. Due to her family's wealth, she was raised by a series of nannies, and attended a finishing school after High School. Before his death in August 1954, they had one child together; Edith Hale Harkness (1948–1982). Their wedding took place at 730 Park Avenue, which was William’s apartment. Harkness took up dancing and ice skating to lose weight and was highly disciplined in both endeavors. 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