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Historic Women - L-N

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Lillie LangtryLillie Langtry, née Emilie Charlotte Le Breton (1853-1929) - Born in Jersey, an island off the coast of Normandy, France on October 13, 1853, Lillie was the the only daughter of the Dean of Jersey. Having six brothers, she was a "tomboy" in her youth and never received a formal education. However; a French governess who served as a tutor to her brothers during the day, helped her during the evenings. In her early teens, she accompanied her mother to a number of social functions and soon met a wealthy thirty year old Irish widower and landowner named Edward Langtry. In 1874, the two married. Not long after the pair moved to London, many say, at her insistence. It appears that Lillie may have married Edward Langtry for his money, but if that was the case, she was disappointed, as Edward soon became bankrupt. Having a great interest in the theatre, Lillie became an actress, appearing in her first play at the Haymarket Theatre in London in 1881. This same year, she also gave birth to a daughter, whose father was not Lillie's husband, but rather was reportedly Prince Louis of Battenberg (later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven) who married Queen Victoria's granddaughter Princess Victoria in 1884.

 

Lillie left her daughter, Jeanne Marie Langtry, in the care of her mother and the girl allegedly thought that Lillie was her Aunt up until the eve of her own wedding day.

 

Promiscuous from the start, Lillie had a number of affairs during her marriage, almost always to prominent and wealthy men, the most notable of which was the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's son Albert Edward ("Bertie"), the future king Edward VII.

 

In the meantime, Lillie's theatrical career was booming, as crowds flocked to see her beauty. Making her debut in New York in 1882, she found her American audience to be even more adoring. Five years later she became an American citizen and divorced her husband.   When a transcontinental tour of the U.S. brought her to Texas, she picked up an ardent admirer by the name of Judge Roy Bean. Though he never met her, Bean struck up a correspondence with the popular actress, named his saloon in Langtry, Texas, the "Jersey Lilly," and when the small village became eligible for a post office, he claimed he called the town Langtry, in her honor. But, old Judge Roy Bean was known to have told a lot of tales and this was just one of them. The town was actually named for a railroad engineer named George Langtry.   Making a great deal of money touring the U.S., Lillie invested in land, purchasing a 6,500 acre ranch in Lake County, California, where she raised horses and had a winery. In 1889, she married a man 19 years her junior - Hugo de Bathe, who would inherit a baronetcy and become one of the leading horse-race owners in the world. Lillie Langtry continued her intercontinental tours until she was sixty-five and made one moving picture in the U.S.   She resided during her final years in Monaco, with her husband living separate from her a short distance away. She died there in 1929, and was buried in the graveyard of St. Saviour's Church in Jersey – the church of which her father had been rector.  

 

Bridget "Biddy" Mason (1818-1891) - An entrepreneur, nurse, and one of first African-American women to own land in California, Bridget was born a slave in Hancock County Georgia on August 15, 1818. She was given as a gift to Robert Smith when he married and was moved with the family to Mississippi. There, the Smiths converted to the Mormon Church, who encouraged members to free their slaves; however, Smith chose not to. They joined with other members to move to Utah in 1847. The Smiths then traveled with a group that went to the San Bernardino, California in 1851. As California was a "free state," Smith was again encouraged to free his slaves, but refused. In 1856, Smith planned to move to the slave state of Texas. Before he made the move, Bridget and other slaves escaped, but Smith caught up with them. As he was making his way out of California, a local posse stopped them. Bridget and the other slaves were then taken from the Smiths and then petitioned a court in Los Angeles for their freedom, which was granted.    

Mason then worked in Los Angeles as a nurse and midwife, carefully saving her money and became the first African Americans to buy real estate in the city. Continuing to invest in land, she amassed a small fortune of nearly $300,000 and became a philanthropist, helping to found a  traveler's aid center, an elementary school for black children, and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city's first and oldest black church. She died in Los Angeles on January 15, 1891.

 

 

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