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The Season: A Social History of the Debutante

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  43 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The world of debutantes opens into a revealing story of women across six centuries, their limited options, and their desires.

Digging into the roots of the debutante ritual, with its ballrooms and white dresses, Kristen Richardson—herself descended from a line of debutantes—was fascinated to discover that the debutante ritual places our contemporary ideas about women and
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 19th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised at how much more than describing the rites of debutantes this book speaks to. Within the framework of describing the debutante phenomenon, the author meshes it with changing social norms and growing internationalism.

A few debs are highlighted to give the reader an understanding of both Deb and post Deb years. I found this book very engaging and I would recommend it to women’s studies courses. It’s a delightful way to read social history while becoming cognizant of
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I find social histories fascinating. I thought that Richardson did a lot of research, starting even before Elizabeth I and moving through to now. That's amazing and she condensed all she learned into a book that will be around 300 pages. Like, wow. For me, I got a bit glazed after a while, but it's still interesting. I could see myself revisiting this at some point in the future!

One thing, though. One part in the book, she talked
**Disclaimer** I won this ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. This doesn't chance my review, but I thought I should mention it. I wasn't required to write this review, it just seemed polite to do so after getting a free book.

An interesting and relatively quick read about a bit of history I hadn't though much about before

My only complaints are really the lack of pictures and minimal period quotes/description. After all the mention of journals and letters in the introduction I found myself wanting to
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely fascinating start to finish. The author has a well-supported, nuanced thesis that demonstrates the importance of diversity and family and cultural change while engaging with economics, literature, and politics over time. Richardson compared my guy Ward McAllister to Martha Stewart (!!), taught me about 18th century women's shoes not having a distinct right/left foot, explored the modern and commercial notion of the "celebutante," and taught me about the Texas Dip (I looked it ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Well written account of the centuries old custom of the selling of young women into marriage, thinly disguised as a coveted social event. A extremely distasteful fact is that some of the most well-known debutante events are headed by middle-aged white men, who meet together and choose their "favorite" young women to participate. The lucky girls are then escorted through presentation, dinners, and dancing by these old men. The practice still occurs among several levels of society, sometimes ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating history of Debutante traditions that is actually a social history of class, gender, and race. The tradition started in Great Britain after the nunneries closed up and people had to figure out what to do with their unmarriagable daughters. Fathers got the legislature to grant them veto power over their daughters' marriages so that they would not lower the family's class. In America, the Debutante ball was a class marker and it varied between north and south, black and ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, history, netgalley
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

We are seeing a resurgence in women's history, and finally are exploring topics long deemed frivolous. Kristen Richardson's history of the debutante is clever look at a social construction that dominated the lives of upper- and middle-class women for over 200 years. It played a crucial role in social connections and marriage prospects for these women, and could quickly change the trajectory of their lives. It could
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it
As a transport to the South, I am fascinated by traditions that I only ever saw in movies or read about in books. One of those traditions is being presented to society as a debutante. It turns out that this tradition is much more wide spread than just the American South, having its roots on different continents for centuries. I was not sure what to expect when I started this book, but it is basically anything and everything you could ever possibly want to know about the development and spread of ...more
Doris Raines
Dec 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a social history about debutantes and covers a wide variety of types of balls: historic British ones, African-American ones, ones in China, etc. I always enjoy reading British history and found the section on debutante balls around the world very interesting. I never got into a real groove with it, but did enjoy it.
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Kristen Richardson grew up in a family of debutantes. She didn’t come out, but wrote a popular article about it for Rookie. She worked at Harper’s and lives in Brooklyn, New York.