Sunday, January 16, 2011

Frankly, My Dear, We Have to Give a Da**

It always seems like striking gold to find interesting details about women in the family. That is not to say there weren't plenty of interesting women, but they often fly "under the radar" in the easily accessible records.

I will continue to connect my nephews' Lamb family back through time to the Rhetts in future posts. Today I am taking advantage of the fluid nature of a blog to put up a few thoughts about their cousin, Alicia Rhett, who played India Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.

Alicia's name sprung out of internet searches around Barnwell Rhett (1800-1876), South Carolina Senator and "Father of Secession." He was a very visible symbol of South Carolina and of the south, and as such, appears to be the inspiration behind Rhett Butler's name in the novel. The Rhetts, a maternal line, were among the founders of Charleston.

It is then fitting that his great-granddaughter was a part of the epic that brought the southern perspective to so many, through the eyes of Hollywood.

The child Mary Alicia Rhett is found in the 1920 census of Wilmington, Delaware with her widowed mother, Isobel M. Rhett and grandmother, Mary Murdock. Isobel and Mary said that they came from England in 1895. Their names are found on sailings from Liverpool on the Teutonic in both 1894 and 1897. Isabel was naturalized in 1914. Since the child was born in 1915, it is likely the mother was naturalized by marriage to an American citizen, the unnamed Mr. Rhett who was born in South Carolina.

A widow in 1920 could likely have been the wife of a World War I soldier. Searching the WWI registration cards yields the name of Alicia's father: Edmund Moore Rhett, born April 7, 1878 and residing on Rodney Street with his wife Isobel. He was a chemical engineer for DuPont. yields a photo of his gravestone, giving his date of death as October 10, 1918, but no more information. The year of birth is off a year from his WWI info. Delaware death records state he died of influenza in Delaware, so he was not a war casualty.

Alicia lost her father when she was only 3. In 1930 she and her mother lived in Charleston. It was in Charleston that she was "discovered" and hired for GWTW, the only movie she made. She was later known as a portrait painter, and was still living there in 2010.

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