“They’re twenty years too late– everybody. Or I’m fifty years ahead. I can’t decide which.” -Edith Beale
“Daughter,” she was told, “you are a disgrace. You’re not a lady.”
“Of course I’m not a lady, Mother,” Little Edie told her, “I’m an entertainer.”
April 2, 1940 marks the death of Maude Sergeant Bouvier— Big Edie’s mother and Little Edie’s grandmother. Big Edie’s final familial ally, other than her daughter, this was a huge loss and marked the beginning of the end for the Beales’ relationship with the Bouvier family.
To get to the beach, or the pool, from the Bouviers’ cabana, one had to march down a long boardwalk past all the other cabanas and their owners. “Good morning, Dr. Boots.” “How are you, Mrs. Pagel?” “Hi, Mr. Lee,” the Bouvier young would chirp as they sauntered down what they came to call the “midway.”
In those days the Bouvier who attracted the most attention from the other cabana owners at the Maidstone was Little Edie. A curvaceous blonde in her mid-twenties, she would walk down the boardwalk in a tight, elastic, one-piece bathing suit and actually succeed in distracting the tycoons from their Wall Street Journals.
Excerpt from: “The Bouviers: Portrait of an American Family” | John H. Davis
“We’re entering a new age now— the Negro is going to sit at the same table as the white man. We’re not going to fight Russia, we’re going to assimilate some of her ideas. We have to… It’s a new era and intolerance is out— The closed mind and the unseeing eye is out and judgment of others is out— the other fellow may be right and you may be wrong. Your father’s era is over, but your mother’s will never be over. She lived by the Golden Rule, Jack. Do unto others as you would be done by.”
-Edie Beale, 1948.
On a blustery East Hampton day like this one, Big Edie is shown shoveling snow on the second floor deck of Grey Gardens, c. 1940.
“I was a model. I did shows in the garment district. And I was, what they called, haute couture — they made things on me, designers. I never did photography because I was afraid of my father. I didn’t want him to know where I was working or what I was doing.” -Edith Beale
Little Edie: I don’t think I ever had anybody loathe me as much as my relatives did.
Big Edie: They were jealous. They were all so ugly compared to you.
“I’m an old fashioned girl. I’m not modern. Nobody married me — they couldn’t understand it. It was beyond them, what I was. I don’t think tradition’s bad. I don’t think it’s bad to stay at home, I really don’t. Though I think you’re not free, and you’re imposed upon, and everybody thinks that you have no mind of your own. And you’re insulted and treated perfectly terribly. And I think it’s very difficult to be comfortable living with your mother. You think you should prove things that you haven’t proved.” -Edith Beale
“Should I marry someone in Libra? I’ll have to look that up. I did know someone born in Libra. I got on very well with him — he’s dead now. I got on very, very well. He was October the twenty-fourth.
‘Libra sees in Scorpio all the virtues ever dreamed of and all the vices desired,’ For goodness sakes. Lead me to Libra.” -Edith Beale