The Woman in Red

In a hilarious chapter in Vineyard Confidential By Holly Nadler, Alice’s mother, Nellie Sands, is described as she appeared in the summer of 1890 on the beaches of the island.

She strolled the Oak Bluffs beach “clad in outrageously little for the time — a baggy, knee-hugging red woolen bathing gown fortified by thick red woolen stockings. Too shocking!”

No one on the Vineyard knew who the woman in red was or where she came from. She caused a stir, as “young men in straw boaters lined the bluffs for a glimpse of her.”

Nellie Sands was an unassuming young woman from New York City, the daughter of a pharmacist who lived above his Madison Avenue shop with his family. That summer in 1890, Captain Joseph De Lamar, who had started to build his fortune as a marine wrecker, returned to the Vineyard a very rich man, the island’s number one bachelor, worth $15 million. He fell for the beautiful Nellie and soon married her.

The couple bought a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, hoping to get in with the Astors and the Vanderbilts who lived there. But the local elite wanted nothing to do with the De Lamars, considering them newly rich (which they themselves had been a generation before). Nellie was unsophisticated and not particularly clever, and her husband was rough, having spent years on ships and in mining camps.

Worse, Captain De Lamar told off-color jokes and picked his teeth with his pocket knife. After they flopped in Newport, the couple packed up and moved to a grand apartment overlooking the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, where they had much more success with their unpretentious ways.

Nonetheless, the marriage didn’t last, and they divorced in ___, with Nellie remaining in Paris and her husband and daughter Alice returning to New York,


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