“Old ladies and old gentlemen are my weakness . . .”

 

Daysie Hall’s will made her sister “Mrs. Randolph Hicks of New York” the custodian of her two children “with full power of attorney to take care of their interests in the way she deems best.” In June 1930 Rose and her 60-year-old husband prepared to become parents for the first time. One thing was clear, Randolph Hicks could no longer afford to retire; the financial roller coaster that would plague even the most prosperous families during the 1930s had only just begun. Still, the Hickses were among the more fortunate Americans as they focused on their priorities for Jane and her college-age brother.

Rose Sutton Parker Hicks in Virginia circa 1939

At forty-eight, Rose Hicks’s ebony hair had  turned white but her large black eyes still intrigued new friends and intimidated others when she was displeased. She was a polished, well-read and well-traveled woman with a keen mind and unlimited curiosity. Her husband, a scholar of Latin, history and the law, appreciated her high standards and her intellect. And, she would tell her niece, “he loves me because I have a lot of character—he likes that better than anything else.” By the time they married — each for the second time–in 1919, Randolph Hicks had transferred his law practice to the prestigious firm of Satterlee, Canfield and Stone on Wall Street. Rose’s and Randolph’s social life was an extension of his work; they moved in exclusive circles among accomplished men and their prominent wives. (Herbert Satterlee’s wife, Louisa, was the eldest daughter of J.P. Morgan.)

R.Randolph Hicks at Poplar Springs in Virginia circa 1939

An eminent trial lawyer, Randolph was also indispensable to his former partner, Arthur J. Morris, who had established the Morris Plan system of industrial banks that gave average Americans installment credit for the first time. Throughout Daysie Hall’s illness, he had done everything he could to support her and his niece and nephew: “The house in Virginia is gradually being built and when it is finished we shall expect to have you there, perhaps we may be able to find a horse for you.” He wrote to Jane as the finishing touches were being put on their new fieldstone home at Poplar Springs Farm in Fauquier County, Virginia.

Although Jane may not have known all the details of her uncle’s career or the full extent of her aunt’s plans for her, she was aware that her life was about to change dramatically. Over the next decade the question would be could she remain true to herself in this new world? Rose had asked if she had ever been out on a date without a chaperone. “Far from it,” Jane fired back. She’d never had a date at all. “Old ladies and old gentleman are my weakness.”

Rose would have to make sure that her free-spirited niece fit into the narrow slice of New York and Virginia society that she and her husband frequented. A private school for young ladies that fostered strong values and a sense of propriety might be just right for Jane’s last two years of high school. After all, she was unusually smart and eager to please —  that would help.