Ava Lowle Willing

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Ava Lowle Willing
Mrs. Ava W. Astor LCCN2014686029 (cropped).jpg
Willing сirca 1911
Ava Lowle Willing

(1868-09-15)September 15, 1868
DiedJune 9, 1958(1958-06-09) (aged 89)
Resting placeLocust Valley Cemetery, Locust Valley, New York
(m. 1891; div. 1909)
(m. 1919; died 1925)
Parent(s)Edward Shippen Willing
Alice Caroline Barton

Ava Lowle Willing (September 15, 1868 – June 9, 1958) was an American socialite. She was the first wife of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and later married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ava Lowle Willing was born on September 15, 1868, in Newport, Rhode Island, to Edward Shippen Willing (1822–1906) and Alice Caroline Barton (1833–1903).[2] She had one older sister and two older brothers: (1) Susan Ridgway Willing (1862–1940) who married on November 3, 1899, Francis Cooper Lawrence Jr. (1858–1904), they had one daughter; (2) John Rhea Barton Willing (1864–1913) he died from pneumonia unmarried with no issue; and (3) Edward Shippen Willing Jr. (1867–1873) he died at age six.

Personal life[edit]

First marriage[edit]

On February 17, 1891, she married Colonel John Jacob "Jack" Astor IV (1864–1912), son of William Backhouse Astor Jr. (1829–1892) and Caroline Webster "Lina" Schermerhorn (1830–1908), at her parents' mansion at 510 South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They went on a 5-week honeymoon in Europe.[3] The newlywed couple was given, among many lavish gifts, a furnished townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City.[4] Though the marriage was tumultuous, the Astors had two children:

The family lived in their New York townhouse at 840 Fifth Avenue, their 2,000 acre country estate, Ferncliff in Rhinebeck, New York, and Beechwood, their Newport, Rhode Island, mansion. By 1896, Mrs. Ava Astor had become socially active in England. She had a country estate near the capital, Regent Lodge, Regent's Park, and a townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London.

In 1909, after returning from England, Ava sued Jack for divorce on November 19, and four months later on March 5, 1910, the State of New York decreed in her favor. She received a $10 million (equivalent to $314,071,000 in 2022) settlement.[7] Their son lived with his father before leaving to attend Harvard University, while Ava got custody of their seven-year-old daughter. While Vincent was in his second year at Harvard, Jack was on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, and became one of the casualties while returning from his honeymoon with his new bride, Madeleine Talmage Force.[8] This event left young Vincent[9] as one of the wealthiest men in the United States.[1][10]

Second marriage[edit]

Photo circa 1911

In September 1911, Ava and her daughter moved to England. They lived in her townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London (from October–April) and her country estate, Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey (from May–September).

When World War I broke out, Ava became involved with the American Women's War Relief Fund and she served as the group's vice-president.[11][12]

On June 3, 1919, Ava married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale at St Mary's, Bryanston Square in London and she was known as Lady Ribblesdale. Lister died six years later on October 21, 1925, at their townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London. They had no children together and after Baron Ribblesdale's death, she did not remarry. He was buried in the Lister vault at St Mary the Virgin Churchyard in Gisburn, Lancashire.

In June 1940, she returned to the United States on the liner SS President Roosevelt as a war refugee, reclaimed her American citizenship, and became known as Mrs. Ava Willing Ribblesdale.[1]


On June 9, 1958, Ava died in her apartment at 720 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York. Ava is buried at Locust Valley Cemetery, in Locust Valley, New York.[1] She left a token bequest of $25,000 to her son, Vincent, but the bulk of her $3,000,000 estate was left to her daughter Ava Alice's four children: Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky, Princess Sylvia Sergeyevna Obolensky, Romana von Hofmannsthal, and Emily Sophia Harding.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Lady Ribblesdale Dead. First Wife of John Jacob Astor IV. Mother of Vincent Astor". The New York Times. 11 June 1958. Retrieved 11 August 2008. Ava Willing Ribblesdale, she took up residence here. She continued to be listed in the telephone directory as Lady Ribblesdale.....
  2. ^ "Will of E. S. Willing. Son Gets Bulk of Estate. The Daughters $225,000 Each" (PDF). The New York Times. 27 April 1906. Retrieved 11 August 2008. The bulk of the $1,000,000 left by Edward S. Willing, who died at his residence, 510 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 10, is devised to his son, John R. Barton Willing, and his two daughters, Ava Lowle Willing Astor, wife of John Jacob Astor, and Susan Ridgway Willing Lawrence, widow of Francis Cooper Lawrence, Jr.
  3. ^ "Colonel John Jacob Astor IV". Titanic History Website.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Astor Legacy". New York Social Diary. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  6. ^ "Lost Will Disposes Of $5,305,000 Estate". The New York Times. 6 November 1956. Retrieved 17 February 2009. Surrogate William T. Collins admitted to probate yesterday the lost will of Mrs. Ava Pleydell-Bouverie, which disposes of her $5,305,000 estate. She was the sister of Vincent Astor.
  7. ^ "Would Probably Share $100,000,000 Estate with Stepmother in Event of His Father's Death". The New York Times. 17 April 1912. Retrieved 11 August 2008. Mrs. Ava Willing Astor, obtained her divorce from John Jacob Astor, in November, 1909
  8. ^ "Son for Mrs. Astor. Named for Father. Both Mother and Baby Said to be Very Well, the Child Strong and Well Formed". The New York Times. 15 August 1912. Retrieved 22 June 2008. Baby is the Sixth John Jacob Astor. Mrs. Madeleine Force Astor, survivor of the Titanic.....
  9. ^ "Astor Estate Goes To Son". The Evening News. 7 May 1912.
  10. ^ "Astor Bequests Have All Been Paid". The New York Times. September 2004. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Helping in Britain: The American Women's War Relief Fund". American Women in World War I. 9 January 2017. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Two Hospitals for U.S. Troops Wounded". Salisbury Evening Post. 20 June 1917. Retrieved 27 April 2018 – via Newspapers.com.