The stylistic biographical drama Tesla, which chronicles the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) and his success with modernising electrical power, introduces Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson) as a narrator — and love interest — of his story. While her name might ring a bell (her father was only J.P. Morgan, arguably the most powerful financier in U.S. history), Morgan is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, having dedicated her life to philanthropy and advocating for working women. What should we really know about Anne Morgan?
The First Private Women-Only Social Club
Born on July 25, 1873 at the family’s country estate in Highland Falls, NY, Morgan was the youngest of her four siblings. She grew up on the family estate and was educated both at home and in private schools. Her career kicked off in 1903, when she became part owner of the Villa Trianon near Versailles, France, with Elsie De Wolfe, a socialite, and Elisabeth Marbury, an agent. The three women, who were known as “the Versailles Triumvirate,” helped organise the Colony Club, the first private women-only social club in New York City, with Florence Jaffray Harriman.
Anne Morgan & The Labor Reform Movement
Several years later, the labor reform movement was taking over New York City, and Morgan shifted her work to aid women workers. As factory labourers were working long hours in cramped spaces for low wages and strikes popped up, Morgan became a full-fledged activist. Factory owners hired “thugs, prostitutes, and private police” to cause chaos along picket lines, according to PBS, prompting Morgan and several other New York socialites, including Mary Dreier, Alva Belmont, and Marbury, to step in. The group was called the “mink brigade” because of their wealthy backgrounds, but that didn’t deter Morgan and the others from occasionally joining the strikes, believing the police would be less violent if members of the upper class were present.
Morgan formed a committee within the Women’s Trade Union League specifically to help and protect the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory strikers. The committee’s members paid strikers’ fines when they were arrested and even took legal action against police. Morgan withdrew her support in early 1910, however, after factory workers rejected a proposal for higher wages without a union. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village caught fire, killing 146 workers, including 123 women and girls.
In the following years, Morgan continued work with the American Woman’s Association (AWA) and Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) with the $3 million inheritance she received after her father died in 1913.
Anne Morgan & The Arts… & Education… & Celebrity Cookbooks
Her career diversified in the following years. In 1915, she published The American Girl, a series of essays that include “Her Education” and “The Girl And Her Future.” She also won an award from the National Institute of Social Science. The following year she and De Wolfe funded See America First, Cole Porter’s first Broadway musical, which Marbury produced.
From 1917-21 Morgan continued her philanthropy in France with The American Friends of France, financed in part with Morgan’s help, which provided soldiers and refugees with healthcare, food, and housing. She returned to the area in 1939 to help evacuees of Soissons.
Morgan continued to use her famous friendships to aid her charity work, compiling a cookbook to benefit the American Committee For Devastated France (AFF) in 1940 with recipes from notable figures including Salvador Dalí and Katharine Hepburn.
So though she died on January 29, 1952, in Mt. Kisco, NY, her story lives on — far beyond her role in Nikola Tesla’s life story.
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