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Rice, Eleanore Elkins Widener

American, 1861 - 1937

Elkins, Eleanore; Widener, Eleanore Elkins; Widener, George Dunton Mrs.


Born 21 September 1861, in Philadelphia, Eleanore Elkins Widener Rice was the daughter of William Lukens and Maria Louisa Broomall Elkins. The family was one of Philadelphia's wealthiest, her father having amassed a fortune in the city's traction lines. She received her education at private schools in Philadelphia and at Vassar College, which she attended for one year. Her first marriage, on 1 November 1883, to George Dunton Widener [1861-1912], united two of the wealthiest and most prominent families of Philadelphia, and she became a leader in the social life of the city. George Dunton Widener was one of three sons of Pennsylvania businessman Peter Arrell Brown Widener [1834-1915] and his wife Hannah Josephine Dunton [c.1836-1896]. The son of a bricklayer, Peter went to public schools in Philadelphia, began his career as a butcher's assistant, and eventually rose to power and fortune in the trolley-car and financial industries. George Dunton Widener and Eleanore Elkins Widener had three children, Harry Elkins [1885-1912], George Dunton, Jr. [1889-1971], and Eleanor [1891-1966]. In April 1912 George Dunton Widener, Sr., and the elder son, Harry, were lost in the sinking of the Titanic, which Eleanore survived. She built a number of different buildings as memorials to them after the tragedy. Three and a half years later in Boston, on 6 October 1915, Eleanore married Dr. Alexander Hamilton Rice, a geographer and explorer, and accompanied him on several trips to South America. She finished the Newport villa, Miramar, that she had begun with her first husband, and divided her time between Newport, and residences in New York and Paris. Especially interested in French art and architecture of the 18th century, Mrs. Rice furnished the residences with contents purchased from old French houses, much of which was eventually given to museums. Mrs. Rice was a leading society hostess and active philanthropist, especially interested in the work of the Red Cross and various hospitals. She died in Paris on 13 July 1937. Lynnewood Hall, the Widener family home built by Peter A.B. Widener in Elkins Park outside Philadelphia, housed an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative art and porcelains, which was ultimately donated to the National Gallery of Art in 1942, through Joseph Early Widener [1871/1872-1943].


New York Times. July 14, 1937 [obituary]
Ingersoll, R. Sturgis. "William L. Elkins and his Descendants." Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art LXVI, no. 305 (July-September 1971):5+

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