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Barbara Hutton
Barbara Hutton on a ship (cropped).jpg
Barbara Woolworth Hutton

(1912-11-14)November 14, 1912
Died May 11, 1979(1979-05-11) (aged 66)
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York
Occupation Philanthropist, heiress
Years active 1933–1979
  • Alexis Mdivani
    (m. 1933; div. 1935)
  • Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Reventlow
    (m. 1935; div. 1938)
  • (m. 1942; div. 1945)
  • Prince Igor Troubetzkoy
    (m. 1947; div. 1951)
  • Porfirio Rubirosa
    (m. 1953; div. 1954)
  • Baron Gottfried von Cramm
    (m. 1955; div. 1959)
  • Prince Pierre Doan
    (m. 1964; div. 1966)
Children Lance Reventlow

Barbara Woolworth Hutton (November 14, 1912 – May 11, 1979) was an American debutante, socialite, heiress, and philanthropist. She was dubbed the "Poor Little Rich Girl"—first when she was given a lavish and expensive debutante ball in 1930 amid the Great Depression, and later due to a notoriously troubled private life.

Heiress to one-third of the estate of the retail tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth, Barbara Hutton was one of the wealthiest women in the world. She endured a childhood marked by the neglect of her father and the early loss of her mother at age four. This set the stage for a life of difficulty forming relationships. Publicly she was much envied for her possessions, her beauty and her apparent life of leisure; privately she remained deeply insecure.

Hutton had one child, Lance Reventlow, with her second husband, but the subsequent divorce ended in a bitter custody battle. Her son died in a plane crash in 1972 at the age of 36, leaving her devastated. She died on May 11, 1979, at age 66. At her death, the formerly wealthy Hutton was on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of both lavish spending and exploitation by those entrusted to manage her estate.

Early life

Born in New York City, Barbara Hutton was the only child of Edna Woolworth (1883–1917), who was a daughter of Frank W. Woolworth, the founder of the successful Woolworth five-and-dime stores. Barbara's father was Franklyn Laws Hutton (1877–1940), a wealthy co-founder of E. F. Hutton & Company (owned by Franklyn's brother Edward Francis Hutton), a respected New York investment banking and stock brokerage firm. She was a niece by marriage of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who was for a time (1920–1935) married to E.F. Hutton; thus their daughter, actress-heiress Dina Merrill (born Nedenia Hutton), was a first cousin to Barbara Hutton. Merrill related on A&E's Biography that for a time Barbara lived with them following the death of her mother and abandonment by her father.

After her mother's death on May 2, 1917, she lived with various relatives, and was raised by a governess. Hutton attended Miss Hewitt's Classes, now The Hewitt School in New York's Lenox Hill neighborhood and Miss Porter's School for Girls in Farmington, Connecticut. She became an introverted child who had limited interaction with other children of her own age. Her closest friend and only confidante was her cousin Jimmy Donahue, the son of her mother's sister. Jimmy Donahue inherited a portion of the Woolworth estate with Barbara.

In 1924, Barbara Hutton's grandmother Jennie (Creighton) Woolworth died and bequeathed to her $26.1 million. Another $2.1 million in stock from Edna's inheritance was placed in a separate trust - both trusts were administered by Franklyn Hutton. By the time of her 21st birthday in 1933, Barbara Hutton's father had increased her inheritance to $42 million ($966,549,230.77 in 2023) not including the additional $8 million from her mother's estate, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world.

In accordance with New York's high society traditions, Barbara Hutton was given a lavish débutante ball in 1930 on her 18th birthday, where guests from the Astor and Rockefeller families, amongst other elites, were entertained by stars such as Rudy Vallee and Maurice Chevalier. The ball cost $60,000, a veritable fortune in the days of the Depression. Public criticism was so severe that she was sent on a tour of Europe to escape the onslaught of the press.

She lived in the family home at 4 East 80th Street on the Upper East Side.


Barbara Hutton married:

  1. 1933: Alexis Mdivani, a self-styled Georgian prince, divorced 1935
  2. 1935: Count Kurt Heinrich Eberhard Erdmann Georg von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow, divorced 1938
  3. 1942: Cary Grant, divorced 1945
  4. 1947: Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, divorced 1951
  5. 1953: Porfirio Rubirosa, divorced 1954
  6. 1955: Baron Gottfried Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt von Cramm, divorced 1959
  7. 1964: Pierre Raymond Doan, divorced 1966

Art and jewelry

Over the years, apart from an important inheritance which included Old Master paintings and important sculptures, she also personally acquired a magnificent collection of her own which included the spectrum of arts, porcelain, valuable jewelry, including elaborate historic pieces that had once belonged to Marie Antoinette and Empress Eugénie of France, and important pieces by Fabergé and Cartier. Among her pieces of jewelry was the 40-carat (8.0 g) Pasha Diamond, which she purchased as an unusual octagonal brilliant-cut but had recut into a round brilliant, bringing it down to 36 carats (7.2 g).

Final years and death

F W Woolworth Woodlawn jeh
Woolworth family mausoleum

The death of her only son Lance Reventlow in an air crash in 1972 sent Hutton into a state of despair. By this time, her fortune had diminished, due to her extreme generosity, including donating Winfield House to the United States government as a residence for its UK ambassador. Alleged questionable deals by her longtime lawyer, Graham Mattison, also ate away at her fortune. Eventually she began liquidating assets in order to raise funds to live, yet continued to spend money on strangers willing to pay a little attention to her. She spent her final years in Los Angeles, living at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where she died from a heart attack in May 1979, aged 66. One biographer wrote that, at her death, $3,500 was all that remained of her fortune, but some who actually knew her said that was not the case. She was interred in the Woolworth family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Barbara Hutton para niños

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