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American Empress


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This entrancing biography of Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973)-socialite, businesswoman, Palm Beach, Fla., pacesetter, opulent Washington hostess, philanthropist-is full of high drama, gossip, scandal and international political intrigue. Her father, C.W. (Charles William) Post, cured of ``invalidism'' at the Battle Creek, Mich., sanatorium of Dr. John Kellogg (inventor of packaged breakfast cereal), went on to develop Postum, a coffee substitute, and Post Toasties cereal. When C.W. killed himself in 1914, Marjorie, his only child, became sole heir of the Postum Cereal Co. With her sexually unfaithful second husband, stockbroker E.F. Hutton, Postum acquired Clarence Birdseye's frozen foods company, General Foods, which, partly through Post's influence as a board member, diversified into a food empire. Her third husband, Washington lobbyist Joseph Davies, became FDR's ambassador to the Soviet Union and helped cement the Soviet-U.S. alliance against Hitler. While living in Russia, Post was appalled at the Soviet police state. She divorced fourth husband Herbert May, a Pittsburgh executive, after a blackmailer's photographers revealed his homosexuality. Rubin, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, limns a warm, generous Christian Scientist, an imperious, perfectionist mother of three daughters, a down-to-earth woman who held square-dance parties and peppered her speech with expletives. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Town & Country. (Jan.)

Rubin (Isabella of Castile, LJ 10/15/91) here delivers a sympathetic yet balanced biography of one of the 20th century's wealthiest women. Post inherited her fortune at the age of 27 from her father, C.W. Post, an early leader in the dry cereals industry. Her event-filled life, which included four marriages and dealings with many of the world's business and political leaders, was characterized both by generosity and extravagance. By contemporary standards, the role she played in shaping the development of General Foods seems less than extraordinary but was progressive by the standards of her day. Rubin successfully portrays the many facets of Post's life (philanthropist, socialite, mother, wife) and the high-society world in which she lived. A work with general appeal; recommended for popular history and business collections.-Mark McCullough, Heterick Lib., Ohio Northern Univ., Ada

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