Just because I’m a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one!

The daughter of  “two African-American parents of mixed ancestry,” Belle da Costa Greene, while identified as “colored” on her birth certificate passed as white for most of her life. Declaring herself ancestry as Portuguese, she tenaciously pursued her ambition to become a librarian. Working first at Princeton, where she received her training, she became financier J.P. Morgan’s librarian in 1906, a post she held with great distinction for decades.  From a young age, Greene had fascination with illuminated manuscripts. She organized Morgan’s collection of rare books and manuscripts, often pursuing purchases with great zeal at auctions and abroad.jpm1

Her dress was no less distinctive than the woman herself.  Greene routinely wore fashionable gowns, brilliant jewelry, violet corsages, and extravagant hats.  She wore Renaissance-styled gowns, festooned with jewels, outfits no doubt enhanced by her penchant for waving silk handkerchiefs while she spoke.  Contemporary descriptions frequently note that she dressed like a “society girl.”

When long time lover Bernard Berenson gave her some Fortuny gowns, items Belle only wore at home, she remarked “I feel very oriental and dreamy and as if I had no bones.”  The Fortuny gowns famously freed women from the constraints of corsets.

Fortuny Delphos gown

Fortuny Delphos gown



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6 Responses to Belle da Costa Greene

  1. Lisa Aronson says:


  2. Lisa Aronson says:

    What an interesting collection of traits…ascetic in a way, indulgent in others

  3. Mary McKinley says:

    Deborah, Your entry motivated me to see if there is a biography, and indeed there is. I’d like to read it. I had no idea about this chapter in the history of the Pierpont Morgan. Mary

  4. The write-up is completely awesome about Belle da Costa Greene
    …please carry on the enjoyable work and share such information with us…

  5. Sanne says:

    Update: Now that I’m able to pull back, away from the negatives, and look at this situation a little more objectively, I can see that it didn’t go that bad. We didn’t really make a connection. So what! I mean, I can’t expect to connect deeper with someone who I don’t connect superficially wia#1h82&1;ctn I? And I can’t expect to connect with everybody.

  6. Gerard says:

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