Belle Skinner fused her delight in family dinners, social discourse, music and the gracious company of women with her inherited fortune to create a welcome entrée into the parlors, ballrooms, and crystal-lit dining rooms of New York and Paris society. Guided by the nineteenth-century book of society counsel, Good Form Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious, and her own sense of style, Belle hosted dinners for Vassar gatherings, actors and actresses, and weekly Sunday dinners for the family.[i] She nonetheless balanced her social life with an inner life of care, responsibility, religious devotion, and community service. Belle Skinner shared a lavish apartment with her brother on 39th Street in New York from September to April for the Metropolitan Opera season, dining regularly at French Society dinners, and gatherings for Friends of Music, as well as with college friends and women who shared her interests in charity and the plight of France’s World War I refugees. Sierra Club founder and author, Robert Underwood Johnson, reflected fondly about Belle after his time with her in New York, saying, “I saw her last at the French Treatises Banquet at the Waldorf for Mrs. [Edith] Wharton and was in love with her beautiful character and her cheerful and engaging disposition. We were also touched by her war-time and post-war-time aid to the French.”
[i] Archives. Wistariahurst Museum.