You can find out more about my next book, working title Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Women, on my dedicated Doris Duke bibliography page.
I wonder how many eight year old girls today would be allowed to wander on the beach in a dirty shift, with mud up to their knees?
That was Newport, which is not known, even today, for freedom of expression, especially for girls and women—unless, perhaps, it is on the tennis court.
But Doris discovered that there is mud, and sand, and dirt everywhere, even in the most refined of beach resorts. There is no way to clean up the edges of the sea; shells, broken and jagged, mussels that squirm, buried clams that spurt sea water up to the surface, spidery horseshoe crabs that can be trapped on their backs, all their legs madly whirling…
She was not supervised.
Today, she might be called a Free-Range Kid, one of the small group, offspring of parents who have begun to see the damage done to children and adults alike by over-supervising—one of the unfortunate effects of a declining participation in the values of feminism, which always included a woman’s right to develop outside of the role of mother/sister/daughter/wife. Not to be a full-time supervisor, overseer, seer of hidden and perhaps imaginary dangers.
Free-Range Children range: two boys, aged six and ten, were picked up by the police as they were walking home from school. “We are not lost, we’re Free Range Kids,” they insisted—and bourn home in the patrol car. The policeman dared to upbraid their father.
We don’t really like our children to be free. We’re not sure we want to be free, ourselves. How many of us walk in unfamiliar neighborhoods or even take a new route, driving to work?
Doris, who at thirteen after her father died would begin to own and manage two of his vast estates, who would come into a third of her inheritance at twenty-one, and use the first cash she’s ever handled to buy an accordion, some costume jewelry, and a ticket to Florida, started on her way when she wandered the Newport Beaches.
No one was watching her—well, someone was, with a camera. No one was alarmed when she walked back to stately Rough Point, her parents’ mansion, covered with sea slime and salt and plain old dirt.
Forget squeamishness, forget parties with gold trinkets buried in sand in the middle of the dining table, for guests to dig for with golden trowels.
It all happened because of dirt…