Author(s): Sallie Bingham
A bold portrait of Doris Duke, the defiant and notorious tobacco heiress who was perhaps the greatest modern woman philanthropist
"Don't touch that girl, she'll burn your fingers," the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover once said about Doris Duke, the inheritor of James Buchanan Duke's billion-dollar tobacco fortune. During her life, she would be blamed for scorching many, including her mother (whom she sued) and various ex-lovers. She established her first foundation when she was twenty-one; cultivated friendships with the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Imelda Marcos, and Michael Jackson; flaunted interracial relationships; and adopted a thirty-two-year-old woman she believed to be the reincarnation of her deceased daughter.
Even though Duke was the subject of constant scrutiny, little beyond the tabloid accounts of her behavior has been publicly known. In 2012, when eight hundred linear feet of her personal papers were made available, Sallie Bingham set out to uncover the truth of the tobacco heiress's life. She found a spectacular character forged in the Jazz Age who not only was an early war correspondent but was also a surfer, an environmentalist, a collector of Islamic art, and a businesswoman who tripled her father's fortune.
This spirited and perceptive biography dissects the stereotypes that have defined Duke's story while confronting those disturbing questions that cleave to her legacy. The Silver Swan chronicles one of the great underexplored lives of the twentieth century and the very archetype of a modern woman.