cover image The Women of Rothschild: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Famous Dynasty

The Women of Rothschild: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Famous Dynasty

Natalie Livingstone. St. Martin’s, $39.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-250-28019-0

Historian Livingstone (The Mistresses of Cliveden) delivers a comprehensive and colorful group biography of the women of the Rothschild dynasty. The family tree begins with matriarch Gutle Schnapper (1753–1849), whose dowry enabled her husband, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, to start building the family’s banking empire. The mother of five boys and five girls, Gutle’s female descendants spread across Europe, hobnobbing with prime ministers and celebrities, lobbying popes and rabbis for social reform, and even breaking Nazi codes at Bletchley Park. The most recent generations profiled include entomologist Miriam Rothschild (1908–2005), known the “Queen of Fleas”; her sister Nica (1913–1988), a patron of jazz musicians including Thelonious Monk; and her daughter Rosie (1945–2010), a psychotherapist and feminist art historian. Livingstone expertly mines diaries, memoirs, and letters for vivid anecdotes, including Miriam’s description of her and her siblings’ romantic suitors as “erotic appendages,” and illuminates how her subjects pushed back against anti-Semitism and their family’s “male culture” (Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s will “explicitly forbade his female descendants or the wives of any male descendants from having any share in the bank’s wealth, or in its decision-making processes”) to take their place in the world. This sparkling history is full of riches. (Oct.)