Profile of Rita Lydig
Rita Hernandez de Alba de Acosta Stokes Lydig (October 1875 – October 27, 1929) was an American socialite regarded as "the most picturesque woman in America." She was photographed by Adolf de Meyer, Edward Steichen, and Gertrude Käsebier, sculpted in alabaster by Malvina Hoffman, and was painted by Giovanni Boldini and John Singer Sargent, among others.
Biography of Rita Lydig
Rita de Acosta was born in New York City in 1875 to Ricardo de Acosta (1837–1907), a steamship-line executive of Cuban descent, and a Spanish mother, Micaela Hernández de Alba y de Alba (1853–1921), reputedly a relation of the Dukes of Alba.
Her sister Mercedes de Acosta, a lover of movie star Greta Garbo, was an author, a scriptwriter, and social critic. Another sister, Aida de Acosta, became the first female to fly a powered aircraft solo.
Rita de Acosta was married twice. Her first marriage was on January 3, 1895 when the 16 year old Rita became the first wife of multimillionaire William Earl Dodge Stokes (1852–1926), who built The Ansonia on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
The couple lived at 262 West 72nd Street and became the parents of one son, William Earl Dodge Stokes Jr. (1896–1982).
The marriage was unhappy, reportedly due to Stokes's temper and physical cruelty, and when it was dissolved by divorce in 1900, she received a settlement of nearly two million dollars, a record for the time.
In 1902, she married Major Philip Mesier Lydig, a wealthy and socially prominent retired officer in the United States Army, with whom she lived at 4 Washington Square North, New York. They separated in 1914 and divorced in 1919.
Rita lived in New York, Paris and London, and was famous for her extravagant lifestyle.
As a socialite, Rita Lydig enjoyed friendships with musicians, artists, intellectuals, and philosophers such as Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Leo Tolstoy, Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore and Claude Debussy, etc.
But meanwhile, she also supported the suffragette cause.
In 1921, Lydig announced her engagement to Reverend Percy Stickney Grant (1860–1927), rector of the Church of the Ascension, but Grant broke the engagement in 1924 and died two years later, but he left Lydig all of his personal fortune.
Lydig was grief stricken by the death of Grant, and she spent large sums of money on fashion, art, furniture, and other objects to console herself. Heavily in debt, she was forced to sell her Washington Square home and its contents, was declared bankrupt and moved to Gotham Hotel.
Rita died of pernicious anaemia at the Gotham Hotel on October 27, 1929 at the age of 54. She was buried with her mother and sister Mercedes at Trinity Church Cemetery in lower Manhattan, New York City.
In 1954 her sister Mercedes de Acosta donated Rita de Acosta de Lydig's clothing and shoes to the Brooklyn Museum, from where they were transferred in 2009 to Metropolitan Museum of Art and became the basis for the start of the Costume Institute at the Met.