Dorothy Hammerstein

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Dorothy Hammerstein
Dorothy Marian Kiaora Blanchard[1]

(1899-06-07)7 June 1899
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Died3 August 1987(1987-08-03) (aged 88)[2]
OccupationInterior designer, decorator
William Thomas Meikle
(m. 1916; div. 1922)

Henry Jacobson
(m. 1925; div. 192?)
(m. 1929; died 1960)
Children3; including Susan Blanchard and James Hammerstein

Dorothy Hammerstein (7 June 1899 – 3 August 1987) was an Australian-born American interior designer and decorator. She was the second wife of the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Early life[edit]

Dorothy Marian Kiaora Blanchard was born to Henry James Blanchard (1862–1931), a New Zealand-born[3][4] master mariner (Dorothy's second middle name Kiaora is a traditional greeting in the Māori language of New Zealand). Her mother was Marion (née Parmenter; 1867–1946), born in Scotland.[3] There were four other daughters of the marriage. Henry Blanchard became a ship's pilot on Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, and they resided in the bayside suburb of Williamstown, in a large house called Mandalay.[5]

On 1 July 1916, aged 17, Blanchard married Lieutenant (later Captain) William Thomas Meikle (born Adelaide, South Australia 14 April 1886), an Australian Infantry Force Officer repatriated from Gallipoli following illness. He subsequently returned to fight in the A.I.F. in France.[6] Meikle remained in the AIF, administering war graves in France and Belgium until 1921, resigning to join the Imperial War Graves Commission where he was superintendent until 1926. Blanchard filed for divorce from Meikle in August 1922, alleging desertion.

Blanchard left Melbourne for London on 22 August 1922 in search of an acting career. Not being successful there, she went to New York, where she joined the cast of André Charlot's London Revue of 1924, an English musical starring Beatrice Lillie and Gertrude Lawrence. She toured the United States and Canada for a year as Lillie's understudy.

In 1925, Blanchard married Henry Jacobson, a New York businessman, with whom she had two children, Henry Jacobson and Susan Blanchard, who would later marry actors Henry Fonda, Michael Wager, and Richard Widmark. While still married to Jacobson, albeit unhappily, Dorothy met Oscar Hammerstein II, whose own marriage was also unhappy. They fell in love, and divorced their spouses to marry in 1929. Oscar also had two children from his first marriage: William Hammerstein and Alice Mathias. His marriage to Dorothy lasted until his death in 1960. They had a son together, James Hammerstein.

Professional career[edit]

Between the 1930s and the 1950s Hammerstein operated Dorothy Hammerstein Inc, a high-profile interior design business, with clients on both coasts of the United States.

In 1949, along with her husband and the novelists Pearl S. Buck and James A. Michener, Hammerstein was a founder of Welcome House, an organization that facilitates the adoption of children of American and Asian parents.[7][8]

Later life[edit]

From its inception in 1969 until her death, Hammerstein was actively involved with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, both as a board member and as a member of its national advisory board.

Hammerstein died in her sleep on 3 August 1987. She was survived by her 3 children and 2 step-children, 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.[2]


  1. ^ IMDB. Retrieved 17 November 2013
  2. ^ a b New York Times, 4 August 1987, Dorothy Hammerstein Dies; Designer Was Lyricist's Wife. Retrieved 17 November 2013
  3. ^ a b Retrieved 17 November 2013
  4. ^ The Argus, 6 February 1931, p.1
  5. ^ The Age, 6 February 2013, Historic home alive with sound of crumbling. Retrieved 17 November 2013
  6. ^ name=Punch (Melbourne) Thu 20 Jul 1916 Page 38 Family Notices LIEUT. W. T. MEIKLE TO MISS D. M. K.BLANCHARD. The marriage of Lieut. W. T. Meikle, 5th Batt.,A.I.F., only son of the late Capt. W. Meikle, of Paisley, Scotland, and Miss Dorothy M. Kiaora Blanchard, second daughter of Captain H. J. Blanchard, of Victorian Pilot Service, was cele-brated at Queen's Chapel, University, Melbourne, on Saturday 1 July, by the Rev. Captain Sugden,of Royal Park Camp. Only relatives of the bride and bridegroom were present. Lieut. Meikle,having fully recovered from the serious illness contracted at Gallipoli, is returning almost immediately to the front.
  7. ^ Los Angeles Times, 5 August 1987. Retrieved 17 November 2013
  8. ^ Sun-Sentinel, 5 August 1987, D. Hammerstein, Interior Designer, Lyricist's Widow. Retrieved 17 November 2013