Page:Our Philadelphia (Pennell, 1914).djvu/166

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
146
OUR PHILADELPHIA

It was not one of the most brilliant periods in the social history of Philadelphia. Mrs. Rush had had no successor, no woman presided over what could have been given the name of Salon as she had. Even the Wistar parties, exclusively for men, discontinued during the upheaval of the Civil War, had not yet been revived. But, notwithstanding the comparative quiet and depression, there were a few shining social lights.

Had I been asked in the year of my coming out who was the greatest woman in the world, I should have answered, without hesitation, Mrs. Bowie. She, too, may be mentioned by name without indiscretion for she, too, has become historical. She was far from beautiful at the date to which I refer, she was no longer in her first youth, was inclined to stoutness and I fear had not learned how to fight it as women who would be in the fashion must learn today. She was not rich and the fact is worth recording, so characteristic is it of Philadelphia. The names of leaders of society in near New York usually had millions attached to them, those there allowed to lead paid a solid price for it in their entertaining. But Mrs. Bowie's power depended upon her personal fascination—with family of course to back it—which was said to be irresistible. And yet not to know her was to be unknown. Intimacy with her was to have arrived. At least a bowing acquaintance, an occasional invitation to her house, was essential to success or its dawning. She entertained modestly as far as I could gather from my experience,—as far as I can now depend