Betsey Maria Cushing was born in Baltimore, one of a trio of what were known as the beautiful Cushing sisters. Her father was a Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Yale Universities. Her mother, Katherine Crowell, was from a socially prominent family in Cleveland.
Miss Cushing attended Miss May's, a private day school in Boston and the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut. Her mother was determined that her daughters would make advantageous marriages and hoped for European nobility or America's moneyed aristocracy. Her daughters married into familiar New York society families – Astor, Roosevelt, Whitney, Mortimer and Fosburgh.
Miss Cushing married James Roosevelt, the eldest son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt at age 22 on June 5, 1930, two days before James Roosevelt graduated from Harvard.
Betsey Cushing Roosevelt was said to be the President's favorite daughter-in-law, but Eleanor Roosevelt was not fond of her and the feeling was mutual. During Eleanor Roosevelt's absences she served as the White House hostess. Using her social position for the benefit of her sisters, she gave a tea dance at the White House for Babe Cushing's debutante season and introduced Minnie Cushing to Vincent Astor. They married in 1940.
In 1938 James Roosevelt left his government job, moving to Hollywood to work as an aide to Samuel Goldwyn. The couple divorced in March 1940. Rumors of a romance between the divorced Mrs. Roosevelt and Jock Whitney surfaced in early 1942. The couple married on March 1, 1942 in a small ceremony in the East 86th Street apartment of her widowed mother. She was 33 and her husband was 37.
They moved to Washington where he ran the Motion Picture Division of the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs headed by Nelson A. Rockefeller. In 1944 Mr. Whitney joined the Air Force, eventually becoming a Colonel and in 1944 he was captured by the Germans and held for 18 days before he escaped.
In 1949 Mr. Whitney adopted the two daughters from his wife's first marriage to James Roosevelt. In 1957 Mr. Whitney was named Ambassador to the Court of St. James in by President Eisenhower and the family moved to London
Mrs. Whitney became one of the most prestigious figures in New York society. Averse to publicity she rarely attended large social gatherings and it was a coup when she accepted an invitation. She was a prominent philanthropist in medicine and the arts and spent most of her time at her residence, Greentree, located on 438 acres in Manhasset on Long Island. Forbes magazine estimated her wealth at $700 million.
She died at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York at the age of 89. She was the last of the fabulous Cushing sisters whose lives were chronicled in David Grafton's book, "the Sisters: The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters. (bio by SGS.
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