Katharine White

Katherine WhireKatharine Sergeant Angell White joined the editorial staff of The New Yorker in 1925, six months after it was founded by Harold Ross, and she remained the only female editor for three decades. Within months, she and Ross established a professional relationship of complete equality, and, in addition to her responsibilities as fiction editor, White collaborated with Ross on every part of the magazine, becoming known as “the intellectual soul” of The New Yorker.  In her role as editor, White was nurturing, and her influence helped shape the careers of emerging writers including Ogden Nash, Mary McCarthy, John Cheever, William Maxwell, Jean Stafford, John Updike, James Thurber, and her beloved husband, E.B. White. Reflecting on a first meeting with his wife at The New Yorker, White said: “I noted that she had a lot of black hair and the knack of making a young contributor feel at ease. I sat there peacefully gazing at the classic features of my future wife without – as usual – knowing what I was doing.”

A formidable woman, White graduated in 1914 fourth in her class from Bryn Mawr, where the feminist culture, propagated by M. Carey Thomas, president of the college, encouraged women to be “both economically and psychologically independent from her husband.”  White’s marriage to Ernest Angell, a graduate of Harvard Law school, ended in 1929, the year she married E.B. White. Their bond was strong; devoted to each other forty-eight years.  In 1938, when White needed a peaceful environment to write, they left New York and moved to their saltwater farm in Maine. Katharine, while sad to leave her life and work in Manhattan, gladly made the necessary adjustment for her husband: editing manuscripts, galleys and books sent by her secretary at The New Yorker. She also now had time to discover a passion for gardening and writing; between 1958 and 1970 Katharine penned fourteen gardening columns for The New Yorker and in 1979, two years after her death, E.B. White published the collection in a book, Onward and Upward in the Garden. In an interview with the New York Times to discuss the book, White talked about his wife, and the life they shared: “Every day, a few minutes before lunch, Katharine White would “go out among her borders,” as her husband told it. “She never dressed down for her gardens.” She might be wearing a tweed suit and Ferragamo pumps, and if it were muddy, she kicked off the shoes on coming back into the house. As for her attitude toward flowers, he said, “She didn’t mind a ruffled petunia, but never a ruffled snapdragon. She was not a ruffled girl herself.”

Diana Vreeland

Diana VreelandOn the devastating shock of being fired as Vogue’s editor-in-chief in 1971, Diana Vreeland mused  “I was only 70. What was I supposed to do, retire?” Instead, she embarked on a final act career as Special Consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fitting her last great hurrah, Vreeland leaned in with conviction. She drew on her 40 years of experience as a fashion editor, knowledge of fashion history dating back to her childhood, and personal friendships  with the most gifted designers of the mid-twentieth century.  Now, instead of being confined to a magazine format, her talents were unleashed on a dramatic stage appropriate for her imagination and vision. Vreeland’s glamour, passion, and genius for style revitalized the established institution and the blockbuster exhibits drew unprecedented surges in attendance. Today, at any given moment, there are at least a dozen museums around the world offering major fashion displays and the Costume Institute’s gala preview balls are still the Party of the Year. Vreeland loved to quote someone who said: “I shall die very young. Whether I am 70 or 80 or 90, I shall die very young.” Diana Vreeland died August 22, 1989 at the age of 86

The Dana McGarry Series by Lynn Steward

Murray Hill

In 1753, Robert Murray, who owned an importing business and Murray’s Wharf on lower Wall Street, and his wife, Mary Lindley Murray, purchased a tract of land for a country estate from what is now Madison Avenue east to Lexington Avenue and from 33rd to 39th Streets. After their deaths, the land was purchased by Robert’s younger brother, John, who divided the lots equally among his children. In 1847, the eleven descendants of John Murray registered with the City Surveyor what became known as the Murray Hill Restriction, banning the use of land for commercial real estate development, with the exception of churches and the private stables and carriage houses located between Lexington and Third Avenues.

Row of Brownstones,NYC.

This restriction assured a private and exclusive neighborhood and appealed to some of the city’s wealthiest families, including Mrs. Astor whose mansion was on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street. The Murray Hill Restriction, however, did not apply to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, offering Benjamin Altman in the opportunity to build his dream of the finest and largest New York department store. In deference to the exclusive enclave, Mr. Altman had the building designed to replicate a Florentine palace and when it opened in 1906, his business name did not appear on the outside of the building, and it remained that way until the 1950s.