Mona Bismarck, "Kentucky Countess"
Mona Bismarck lived a glamorous life.
Dubbed the "Kentucky Countess", she was born Mona Strader in Louisville in 1897, the socialite Mona Bismarck (February 5, 1897 - July 10, 1983) married five times (including a marriage to a Harrison Williams, known as the richest man in America) and was noted as the most fashionable woman of her era.
Mona was raised in Lexington, Ky., but she donated her papers and photos to Louisville’s Filson Historical Society. We talk to historians there about this Kentuckian who held the fascination of 20th century notables like Coco Chanel, Salvador Dali and Truman Capote.
In 1933 Mona was the first American to be named the Best-Dressed Woman in the World by Paris designers, including Chanel and Balenciaga.
She was also satirized in Truman Capote's "Answered Prayers" and immortalized in Cole Porter's song "Red, Hot and Blue!".
Mona Bismarck was often photographed by famed celebrity photographer Cecil Beaton (January 14, 1904 - January 18, 1980), who was one of her closest friends. Beaton was also an Academy Award-winning costume designer. Many of the beautiful photos of Mona Bismarck at the Filson are the work of Sir Cecil Beaton.
Mona Bismarck died in 1983, but her legacy lives on through the Mona Bismarck Foundation in Paris, wtih promotes Franco-american cooperation through the arts.
The Mona Bismarck Foundation supports, as its main programmatic activity, a Paris Cultural Center in the Countess’ former townhouse overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
Learn more about the Filson Historical Society, in our Season Three "Louisville Life" story.
- Program 420
- "Louisville Life" profiles a memorable figure in Louisville high society - "the Kentucky countess", churns out the story behind the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen, visits Louisville Slugger Field, and a unique bed & breakfast in Old Louisville. (#420)