9 E 68th St, New York, NY 10065
Woodlawn Cemetery Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
Susan Dwight Bliss (January 16, 1882 - October 25, 1966) was a Philanthropist. Like Sarah Hewitt and Eleanor Hewitt, friends of the sisters were privileged women, career pioneers, and philanthropists. Elizabeth (“Bessy”) Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe are perfect examples. Marbury pioneered a new profession as a talent agent for writers and performers, as well as a theater producer. Elsie de Wolfe “invented” the profession of interior decorating. Anne Tracy Morgan, Susan Dwight Bliss, and Edith Malvina Wetmore were wealthy philanthropists, collectors, and donors to the Cooper Union Museum. Caroline King Duer was a writer-poet-artist who became an editor at Vogue magazine.
Susan Dwight Bliss was born in New York City on January 16, 1882 to George T. Bliss and Jeanette Atwater Dwight. Her father was a member of the banking firm of Morton, Bliss & Co. and a large shareholder in several corporations, such as Phelps Dodge. Her mother inherited substantial wealth from her father, Amos T. Dwight, a cotton merchant.
Never marrying, she lived many years in the family mansion at 9 East 68th Street (1906-07, architects Heins and LaFarge), first with her widow mother (her father dying in 1901) and then on her own after her mother’s death in 1924. There she maintained and continued book, manuscript, and art collections tracing back to her father and mother. For the landing of the grand staircase Jeannette wanted a large and impressive stained glass window. Susan Bliss posed as Andromeda, holding back a portiere with her left hand and inviting guests with her right. LaFarge called his creation The Welcome Window.
Bliss was known for her philanthropy. She was a founding member of the social service executive board of St. Luke’s Hospital and served for many years on the hospital’s Auxiliary. Besides her work with St. Luke’s, she was active in many other organizations concerned with the social and medical welfare of children and of psychiatric patients. She made numerous donations of art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1959, she gave 42 acres of green-space to the town of New Canaan, Connecticut. At her death in 1966, she bequeathed approximately $2 million to Yale University for establishing professorships in epidemiology and public health as well as a scholarship in the field.
The libraries of Bowdoin, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale received major benefactions, as did the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The most spectacular is that to Bowdoin. Named the Susan Dwight Bliss Room shortly after her death, it consists of the interior carved paneling (18th century French) and furnishings of her mansion’s library together with more than 1200 specially bound rare books for its shelves. In 1967, Harvard received her bequest of a collection of autographs of French royalty, deposited in 1957-58. Yale was given a collection documented in the article “Royal Association Books in the Bliss Collection,” in the Yale University Library Gazette 40:30. Her gift to Princeton first arrived as a deposit in October, 1957, with two provisos: that it be anonymous and that it was an intended gift. In June 1964, the entire deposit was converted to an outright gift. In 1927, she presented to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, her mother’s collection relating to Mary, Queen of Scots, consisting of 113 manuscripts, 687 printed books, 627 prints, and 22 medals and other items.
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