I knew of Marjorie Merryweather Post, because growing up in Michigan, she was a household name. Her great wealth sourced from close-by Battle Creek, where her cereal empire began and thrived. At 27 she was the wealthiest woman in America when she inherited C. W. Post’s General Foods.
By the end of her life, she had many hundreds of millions of dollars, four husbands, three daughters, successfully introduced frozen foods to the mainstream against opposition, was hostess to a long line of presidents, collected Russian treasures after the Russian revolution and Marie Antoinette’s jewelry, and built countless colossal homes, including Mar-a-Lago.
She lived in luxury, not denying herself anything, but balanced that with much philanthropy, always on the look out for what kind of good she could do in the world. She had forward thinking views about women, acute business acumen, celebrated skills at hospitality, as well as much needed, incredible resilience from heartbreak caused by a series of men.
Interestingly, at the beginning of the book, Marjorie’s father had a healing in Christian Science that is described in detail. He came to Battle Creek for treatment of his failing health, but found his solution not from the medical methods of Dr. Kellogg (later to be his rival at Kellogg cereal), but through the help of his boardinghouse mistress who was a Christian Science healer.
Not only was her father healed from being at death’s door there, but he also had a business idea to help overworked women like this boardinghouse mistress– a breakfast (Grape-Nuts, invented in 1897) that didn’t need to be cooked. (He created Postum too, a healthier, caffeine free breakfast drink.) Basically, he “revolutionized breakfast.”
Without that pivot point of Christian Science coming into their lives, none of Marjorie’s amazing wealth would have been possible, nor all the philanthropy that extended from it. Unfortunately, her father did not continue in Christian Science, for he strayed to the point of cheating on his wife with his secretary, and later committed suicide, leaving his daughter an early heiress.
Marjorie lived a remarkable life, starting out humbly gluing cereal boxes together, and then catapults to live a lush life full of friends from the history books, and left an amazing legacy. After reading this book, I want to visit her Washington DC home, Hillwood, which is now a museum, to see her Russian treasures.
The telling of Marjorie’s remarkable story is very straightforward and told in the first person; it comes across unembellished, in contrast to the woman it is about. The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post is well researched, and I’ve enjoyed other books by this author (see here).
I’m glad Marjorie Merryweather Post is being remembered for her panache and generosity of spirit. You’ll enjoy this read if you appreciate secure, capable women, who don’t shy away from what they have to contribute, have a great attitude, and who have a strongly ethical approach to life. I give this historical fiction 4 stars.