Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Meet the Players: Susan Mary Alsop

Seated in the front row: on the left is Jackie Kennedy and on the right is Susan Mary Alsop

Susan Mary Jay was descended from John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and grew up as one of America’s most privileged daughters. This daughter of a diplomat was born in Rome and grew up in South American and Europe. Her mother attended the wedding to Russian royalty - Nicholas and Alexandra - in 1894. 

As a young woman, she had Sunday night suppers with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. As a teenager, she had tea with Edith Wharton.

Susan Mary took a job at Vogue as a receptionist, model, and writer in 1939. In October 1939, at the age of 20, she married a man named Bill Patten. After World Ware II, she joined him in Paris where he held a job at the American Embassy. She as known for the entertaining dinners she held for European, British and American social and diplomatic luminaries that had a serious underlying intent: to strengthen European-American ties. She was often seated beside British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ("He has decided I am . . . French . . . and nothing will deter him from speaking French to me.") when she wasn't drinking champagne with Noel Coward and the Duke of Windsor. Bill and Susan Mary had two children - a son name William Jr. and a daughter named Anne. Bill Patten died in 1960 of emphysema. 

Susan Mary returned to the United States and she married Joe Alsop, Patten’s college roommate, in 1961. Susan Mary and Joe divorced in 1973 but continued to remain great friends. They continued to host joint dinner parties for the political luminaries of the time and helped raise their grandchildren. After the divorce, Susan Mary started to write. She published several books and became a contributing editor at Architectural Digest

After her death on August 18, 2004 of complications from pneumonia her son Bill discovered through a DNA test that he and his sister had different fathers. It’s now believed that William Jr’s father was Duff Cooper, the British Ambassador to France. 

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