Dorothy Payne Whitney
|Dorothy Payne Whitney|
Dorothy Payne Whitney in 1915
January 23, 1887|
Washington, D.C., United States
|Died||December 14, 1968
Dartington Hall, Devon, United Kingdom
|Nationality||United States (to 1935)
United Kingdom (from 1925)
|Occupation||Social activist and philanthropist|
|Spouse(s)||Willard Dickerman Straight (m. 1911–18; his death)
Leonard Knight Elmhirst (m. 1925–68; her death)
|Children||Whitney Willard Straight
Beatrice Whitney Straight
Michael Whitney Straight
|Parent(s)||William Collins Whitney
Life and work
Whitney was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Flora (née Payne) and William Collins Whitney, the United States Secretary of the Navy during the first Cleveland administration from 1885 through 1889. Flora was the daughter of Senator Henry B. Payne of Ohio and sister of Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne, later treasurer of the Standard Oil Company. She attended the Chapin School. At age 17, she came into a major inheritance following the death of her extremely wealthy father.
One of the wealthiest women in America in the early 20th century, Dorothy Whitney Straight was a philanthropist, social activist, supporting women's trade unions, educational and charitable organizations such as the Junior League of New York, becoming the first president of the Association of Junior Leagues International in 1921. She was also a founder, with her husband, of the weekly magazine The New Republic and the New School for Social Research, in New York City.
Records of Dorothy Payne Whitney in New York City reveal the extent of her philanthropic work. She was a benefactor of the arts, feminist, and pacifist causes as well as social and labour reform. She lent financial support to progressive alternative education plus scholarly research. In 1937, she created the William C. Whitney Foundation, in her father's name.
Her first marriage in 1911 was to Willard Dickerman Straight (1880–1918) an orphan from Oswego, New York, who went to Cornell University and by the age of 30 was a powerful man amongst the international community trading in Peking, China. He died at the age of 38 of influenza during the 1918 pandemic while serving with the United States Army in France during World War I. Straight's will requested his wife to continue his philanthropic work in support of Cornell and in 1925 she built Willard Straight Hall, a student union building dedicated to her late husband's memory. Together, they had three children:
- Whitney Willard Straight (1912–1979), who married Lady Daphne Margarita Finch-Hatton (1913-2003), the daughter of Guy Finch-Hatton, the 14th Earl of Winchilsea
- Beatrice Whitney Straight (1914–2001), who married Louis Dolivet (1908-1989), then later Peter Cookson (1913-1990)
- Michael Whitney Straight (1916–2004), who first married Belinda Crompton, then later Nina Gore Auchincloss (the daughter of Hugh D. Auchincloss and the step-sister of Jackie Kennedy), and lastly, Katharine Gould
In 1920, she met Leonard Knight Elmhirst, an Englishman from a Yorkshire landowning family, who was then studying agriculture at Cornell University, and was seeking support for Cornell's Cosmopolitan Club which provided amenities for foreign students. They married in April 1925, and embarked on ambitious plans to recreate rural community life at Dartington Hall in Devon. At Dartington she led the artistic developments, founding Dartington College of Arts and Dartington International Summer School — although she and Leonard also continued their world-wide interests. On April 26, 1935 she renounced her United States citizenship. She died on December 14, 1968. Together, they had two children:
- Ruth Elmhirst (1926-1986), who married Maurice Ash (1917–2003) in 1947
- William Elmhirst (born 1929), who married Vera Strachan, daughter of James Ernest Strachan
She was known for:
- Building the Willard Straight Hall, Cornell University
- Founding The New Republic
- Founding New School for Social Research
- The founding president of Association of Junior Leagues International
- Founding William C. Whitney Foundation
- Renovating Dartington Hall and its gardens
- Founding the Dartington Hall Trust
- Founding the Dartington Hall School
- Founding the Dartington College of Arts
- Founding the Dartington International Summer School
- Newspaper Enterprise Association (1914). The World Almanac & Book of Facts. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 662. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- "Whitney Straight to Wed in England". The New York Times. April 11, 1935. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
- "Peter Cookson, 76, A Writer, Producer And Stage Actor" The New York Times, January 8, 1990
- "Peter Cookson Broadway" playbillvault.com, accessed September 16, 2015
- "Michael Straight". The Daily Telegraph. January 7, 2004. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
Michael Straight, who has died aged 87, was the former Soviet spy responsible for telling MI5 that Anthony Blunt — whose lover he had briefly been at Cambridge in the 1930s — was a mole.
- "Whitney Heiress, Wife of a British Subject, Renounces Status as American". The New York Times. April 26, 1935. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
Mrs. Dorothy Payne Whitney Elmhirst, the former Mrs. Willard Straight, renounced her United States citizenship yesterday in an affidavit filed with Federal Judge William Bondy.
- "Dorothy Elmhirst, a Founder of New Republic, Dies". The New York Times. December 16, 1968. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
London, Dec. 15—Mrs. Dorothy Payne Whitney Straight Elmhirst, philanthropist, pioneer in progressive education and suffragist, died last night at Dartington Hall near ...
- Berthoud, Roger (January 27, 2003). "Maurice Ash Innovative farmer, and fighter for civic and environmental causes". The Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- Caddy, Kate. "Ruth and Maurice Ash". dartington.org. Dartington. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
- "William Elmhirst". thesolarquest-theonlyway.com. The Solar Quest. Retrieved 28 March 2016.