Characters Julian Fellowes’ Gilded Age Gets Right: Mamie Fish

Like Caroline Astor, Mamie Fish was part of Old New York Society and looked down on the new-money climbers. When Mamie built a new home at 78th and Madison Avenue, she instructed the architect to create a ballroom that would make a person who was not well bred feel uncomfortable. Fellowes captures this aspect of her personality in the scene in which Mamie scowls down at Bertha Russell from behind the curtain of a second floor window after she’s instructed her butler to turn the interloper away. But Mamie also had a rebellious streak. While she made her required appearance at the opera, she claimed her favorite instrument was the comb. Her parties became wilder each year and boring was a thing she couldn’t abide. “Make yourself at home,” she once told a guest, “and believe me, there’s no one who wishes you there more heartily than I.” While Caroline Astor thrived on order and decorum, Mamie came to see society’s demands as stultifying. Fellows captures Mamie’s early, mischievous, fun-loving side when young Larry Russell visits her Newport home and is roped into playing games. Will Fellowes follow Mamie when—as a contemporary magazine put it—she leads society “out of the dull monotony of convention into the land of the

Note: The Gilded Age airs on Max.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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