Sisters of Fortune : America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake is a study in how women could flourish in non-traditional 19th century America and England. The Grandfather of the Caton Sisters, Charles Carroll, was one of the richest men in America and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. When his Mother's inheritance is lost by his Father, he decides to settle his wife and daughters with trusts that cannot be touched by their future husbands. Rarely done at the time, he also ingrained in the daughters how to take care of their own estates and expenses. This allowed each of them to retain their money as they married.
The daughters were also amazingly allowed to marry for love. Although the family was much interested in their marriages, even when they did not approve of the husbands, they allowed their daughters their happiness. In addition to their own income, this gave the Caton sisters extra-ordinary freedom for their times.
The oldest daughter, Marianne, married locally into what became a sad marriage. When her first husband died she marries the older brother of the Duke of Wellington (her alleged true love). Even the Duke of Wellington thought his older brother a ne'er do well. But Marianne became a Lady In Waiting to Queen Adelaide and later Queen Victoria. She was much admired in royal circles.
Elizabeth, known as Bess, marries very late in life but becomes quite the speculator investing in the new railroads and South American mines. She becomes one of a number of well-to-do women who invest in businesses.
Louisa, first marries the Aide de Camp to Wellington. When he dies, she marries the Duke of Leeds. Louisa had the most trouble being accepted into royal circles. She finally is invited to the family castle after 15 years into the marriage.
Emily stays in America to marry one of the owners of what will become the Hudson Bay Company, known for fur trading. She is also the only one of the sisters to have children and the only one to remain in America.
Author Wake uses extensive letters to develop the lives of the sisters and their closeness to their Grandfather. The sisters were very much involved in the politics of the time whether in America or in England. While the sisters are remarkable, you also understand and appreciate what their Grandfather did for them. They know him to be their hero and readers will appreciate the freedoms he allowed them to have.
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