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Why the Custody Battle for Young Gloria Vanderbilt Riveted Depression-Era America

June 17, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt was only 10 when she became an unwilling tabloid sensation. It was 1934, and she was the subject of a nasty custody battle between her widowed mother and her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Depression-era Americans eagerly read about the acrimonious trial, which was open to the press until the day a maid accused Gloria’s mother of having an affair with a relative of the British Royal Family in court. Newspapers dubbed Gloria “the poor little rich girl,” kicking off a wave of media attention that followed her until her death on June 17, 2019.

Gloria Vanderbilt pictured with her mother Gloria Morgan, widow of Reginald Vanderbilt, in 1926.

Gloria, a society heiress who later launched a fashion empire built on designer jeans, was born on February 20, 1924 to Gloria Morgan and Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, great-grandson of . Soon after, it became a TV miniseries starring Angela Lansbury as Gloria’s aunt. By that point, Gloria had found success in fashion with a line of dark, tight-fitting jeans whose back pockets were embroidered with her name.

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