Open Marriage: Renegade Wife of the Gilded Age

Opening on June 29th at Ventfort Hall (The Museum of the Gilded Age) is a play about the life of Elsie Clews Parsons — radical thinker, Phd, Anthropologist, mother of four children, and author of several books.  Born in the late 1800s to one the wealthiest, most genteel families in America (her father was Henry Clews the banker,) Elsie defied all expectations for society women of her time, postponed marriage to become part of the Bohemian academic explosion burgeoning in Greenwich Village around the turn of the century.  Finally marrying Herbert Parsons, a man who was to become a conservative Congressman, she went on to become a mother, but marriage and motherhood did not equal “settling down” for Elsie.  She continued to travel the world, study other cultures and tribes, write obsessively and prolificly, and make waves with her radical writings in good society where she was expected to behave like a ‘proper’ political wife.  Instead, Elsie dressed in flamboyant and unacceptable colors, wore moccasins she brought back from her travels, and had male friends, colleagues and lovers coming in and out of her circle in a fluid and open way — something that over time troubled her husband, both publicly and privately.  Elsie’s greatest irony was that when her husband became interested in another woman, a very conventional conservative woman, Elsie became  jealous.  Open Marriage explores the conflict within Elsie between her academic mind and her uncontrollable heart in the moments, hours and days after Elsie’s husband Herbert dies in a freak motorcycle accident right in front of their home.

Ventfort Hall is located on Walker Street in Lenox MA, a short walk from Brook Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast.  More information about the play and a schedule of performances can be found at The Museum of the Gilded Age website

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