Edith Vanderbilt

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Painting of Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt by Giovanni Boldini

Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt (1873-1958) was an American philanthropist.


Early life[edit]

She was born on January 17, 1873 as Edith Stuyvesant Dresser. She was a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the first governor of Dutch colonial New York, and also the great-niece of Hamilton Fish. She was orphaned at the age of ten and was raised by her maternal grandmother.


Edith was a compassionate person who many said that you would not have known she was the mistress of the Biltmore Estate. She was very involved with the families that worked on the Biltmore Estate as well as the surrounding community. Edith and her husband, George Vanderbilt were socially progressive thinkers and were pivotal roles in the betterment of the lives of many people in Western North Carolina.[1]

Some of her initiatives were sponsoring literacy programs, educational initiatives, and promoted the learning of crafts for women to be able to support themselves. On the Estate, she would bring maternity baskets to women who just given birth to make sure they had everything they needed. Edith would also take her daughter Cornelia’s old clothing to families with girls that were about the same age.[2]

After her husband’s death in March 1914, she continued her work for the community. She became the first woman president of the State Agricultural Society and with this title Edith helped build a new hospital among numerous other deeds. Later on, she decided to honor George Vanderbilt, her husband, and sold 87,000 acres to create the Pisgah National Forest for the public to enjoy.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Edith Vanderbilt with her daughter Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt

Her first husband was George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862–1914), the owner of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. They were married on 1 June 1898 in Paris. After his death in 1914, she sold the land around the Biltmore Estate to the United States Forest Service. This became part of the Pisgah National Forest. They had one daughter, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt (1900–1976).

Her second husband, whom she married on October 22, 1925 in London, was Peter G. Gerry (1879-1951), United States Senator from Rhode Island.


Paul McCartney, in the band Wings, paid homage to her as well as Martha Washington in his 1973 hit "Mrs. Vanderbilt" on the Band on the Run album.


  1. ^ "Our Story - Biltmore Stories - Edith Vanderbilt." BILTMORE in Asheville, North Carolina, Americas Largest Home and More! Biltmore Association. Web. 08 Nov. 2011.<http://www.biltmore.com/our_story/stories/esv.asp>
  2. ^ McKendree, Sue C. "Edith Vanderbilt's Relationship with Estate Families." Learn NC. UNC School of Education. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.<http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/1834>
  3. ^ Carley, Rachel, and Rosemary G. Rennicke. A Pictorial Guide to Biltmore Estate / [written by Rachel Carley and Rosemary G. Rennicke]. Asheville, NC: Biltmore, 2008. 18-19. Print.

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