Alva Belmont

Born Jan 17, 1853

Alva Belmont, née Alva Erskine Smith, and known as Alva Vanderbilt from 1875 to 1896, was a prominent multi-millionaire American socialite and a major figure in the women's suffrage movement. Known for having an aristocratic manner that antagonized many people, she was also noted for her energy, intelligence, strong opinions, and willingness to challenge convention.… Read More

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News + Updates

Browse recent news and stories about Alva Belmont.

  • Sewall Belmont House & Museum Reopens With New Displays Washington Post (Blog)
    Google News - May 19, 2011
  • Letter; The Power Of The Purse
    NYTimes - Sep 06, 2009
  • For Historic Cemeteries, New Chapters
    NYTimes - Jun 02, 2002
  • Palm Beach Story
    NYTimes - Dec 02, 2001


Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Alva Belmont.


1853 Birth Born on January 17, 1853.
1859 6 Years Old As a child, Alva summered with her parents in Newport, Rhode Island and accompanied them on European vacations. In 1859 the Smiths left Mobile and relocated to New York City, where they briefly settled in Madison Square. … Read More


1869 16 Years Old After the Civil War, the Smith family returned to New York, where her mother died in 1869.


1875 22 Years Old At a party for one of William Henry Vanderbilt's daughters, Smith's best friend, Consuelo Yznaga introduced her to William Kissam Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. On April 20, 1875, William and Alva were married at Calvary Church in New York City. … Read More


1883 30 Years Old 1 More Event
Determined to bring the Vanderbilt family the social status that she felt they deserved, Vanderbilt christened the Fifth Avenue chateau in March 1883 with a masquerade ball for 1000 guests, costing a reported $3 million. … Read More
1886 33 Years Old 1 More Event
…  Following a divorce from Fernando Yznaga in 1886, Jennie remarried to William George Tiffany.


1895 42 Years Old Alva Vanderbilt shocked society in March 1895 when she divorced her husband, at a time when divorce was rare among the elite, and received a large financial settlement said to be in excess of $10 million, in addition to several estates. … Read More
1896 43 Years Old Alva remarried Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, one of her ex-husband's old friends, on January 11, 1896. … Read More
1899 46 Years Old In 1899 she and Oliver bought the corner of 477 Madison Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan. … Read More


She and her youngest son, Harold, moved into the house in 1909. … Read More
1912 59 Years Old At the same time, she formed her own Political Equality League to seek broad support for suffrage in neighborhoods throughout the city, and, as its president, led its division of New York City's 1912 Women's Votes Parade. … Read More


1914 61 Years Old Now committed to securing the passage of the 19th Amendment, she convened a "Conference of Great Women" at Marble House in the summer of 1914. … Read More
1917 64 Years Old The following year, she and Paul established the National Woman's Party from the membership of the CU and organized the first picketing ever to take place before the White House, in January 1917. … Read More
1920 67 Years Old …  William Kissam II would become president of the New York Central Railroad Company on his father's death in 1920. … Read More
1921 68 Years Old The marriage would be annulled much later, at the Duke's request and Consuelo's assent, in May 1921.
1932 79 Years Old She suffered a stroke in the spring of 1932 that left her partially paralyzed, and she died in Paris of bronchial and heart ailments on January 26, 1933. … Read More
1933 80 Years Old …  After her death in 1933, the chateau was left to Consuelo, who sold it to a Swiss company in the winter of 1937.
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