top of page

Ann Woodward: Socialite Murderess Part 1

In the 1920s New York City became the center of the world in the eyes of many. Those that immigrated to the States were greeted by the welcoming site of Lady Liberty as they reached the shore. Wall Street was born in the 20s, breathing new life not only into the American economy, but into the city as well. New York became the nexus of fashion, with the rest of the country looking to the stylish elite of the city to know what to wear. By the 1940s the population had risen to 8 million people, including those working in the fields of finance, banking, science, rail transportation, academia, art, literature, publishing, and theater.

When researching the story of Ann Woodward, I found the book, Deliberate Cruelty, by Roseanne Montillo to be extremely helpful. No other source was ever needed as this book went into much greater detail than any other could've. Montillo dives much deeper into Truman Capote's life for this story as he does play a large part in it. If you're interested in learning more about the author of In Cold Blood then please check out her book, available on Amazon.

Ann Woodward came from the humble beginnings of a dilapidated farm in Pittsburg, Kansas. Born Angeline Luceic Cromwell in 1915, she would later change her name to something more glamorous and polished in her dream of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. Her parents, Jesse-Claude Cromwell and Ethel Smiley Cromwell, were as opposite as day and night. Jesse-Claude was a lazy man that seemed happy with his lot in life as long as it meant little work on his part. Ethel, on the other hand, was ambitious. She was always looking for another way to better herself and her circumstances through education. A hard worker, Ethel kept herself busy on the farm tending to the animals, collecting eggs, snapping butter beans, making preserves, knitting sweaters, and taking care of her family and her in-laws, too.

When Ethel and Jesse-Claude moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, they were seeking out better opportunities that had been promised to them. Their farm in Mexico, Missouri had just failed and the move was intended to be the family's saving grace. The weather turned out to be anything but welcoming to those looking to farm the land, or even inhabit it. Droughts, hot winds, and prairie fires that sparked during the night and burned for hours made farming impossible. Torrential rains blanketed the ground in thick mud and the winter blizzards throughout January and February were their own kind of hell, nearly freezing those unprepared to death in the night. Once the snow set in residents were buried for the season. When the thaw came about and the temperatures rose, rattlesnakes and locusts became the new challenge for the summer.

As though things hadn't proved hard enough in Kansas, Jesse-Claude suffered a back injury while working on the farm. This only worsened his already severe case of sloth. Ethel became the family's soul breadwinner at that point. Times became tough and they only got worse.

Ann's 4-year-old brother, Jesse-Claude Jr., woke one morning with a chill. For hours after the poor child shook with cold and burned with fever all at once. He was prescribed some medicine that seemed to work well at first. The family was hopeful as he seemed to improve. Then one night he started to vomit. In the midst of the fit, he choked to death. Ethel would never recover from this loss. Though she continued to go through the motions and eke out a living, all of the joy she had once known had been buried with her son.

Ann would recall living on that run-down old farm in Kansas later in life, well after her ascension to high society. The rough straw mattress that undoubtedly made her skin itch. The bugs that would crawl on her in the night as she tried to rest. They had no running water or bathroom. An outdoor shed served as their facilities and for water, Ethel ran back and forth to a well. Even years after moving into her elegant Manhattan townhouse and buying her lovely Oyster Bay Cove property, Ann would wake in the night with a start, vividly remembering her humble past. She would frequently silence the ghosts of her past with a handful of pills chased down with a few beers in the quiet of her fancifully decorated bedroom.

Ethel was so inconsolable after the death of her son that she sent Ann to stay with her grandmother for a time. Just months after the tragic loss, Jesse-Claude was advised by a doctor to send his wife away from the farm for a while. This would not only mark the start of the slow and steady separation of Ethel from Jesse-Claude, it would also hail the beginning of Ann's unstable and uncertain childhood. By the time she entered her teenage years, Ann had already lived in eight homes, having been shuffled between her grandmother, mother, and her aunts. It was this uneven ground that she would never forget. And she would do whatever she needed to keep from sliding back into it.

Ethel had made her decision to go back to school before the death of her son, but took a hiatus after his passing. She returned and was close to earning her bachelor's degree in science towards the end of 1919. She hoped to pursue a career in teaching. When she returned home at semester's end, she found the farm about to be repossessed by the bank and her husband readying their things to move. They dragged all of their earthly possessions to Hugoton, Kansas, where Jesse-Claude could secure a job working for a few hours a day on a cattle ranch.

Western Kansas didn't endear itself to Ethel, but she made the most of her situation. She helped her husband plant corn, taught her daughter to read and write, and even enrolled in correspondence courses to finish her education. She did all of this despite the frequent bouts of depression she suffered after losing her son. To fill the rest of her day, Ethel also mended all of the family's clothing, made Ann's dresses, and patched Jesse-Claude's shoes every night. Then she spent her nights preparing for the next day of work, which was more of the same day after day.

As Ethel continued her education, she prodded her husband to learn a trade for himself. The automobile was starting to become more commonplace at the time and she thought that he might learn more about them so he could try to find work as a mechanic. True to form, Jesse-Claude had no desire whatsoever to learn about cars. If Ethel wanted a better life it definitely wasn't going to be accomplished by her husband. She would have to get things done for herself as she had always done.

In June 1920, Ethel graduated from the University of Kansas with her bachelor of science degree in social science. Upon graduation she was offered a job as the principal over a small schoolhouse located more than two hours from Hugoton. She accepted the position and lied to her employers, telling them she was a widow as they did not hire married women. She rented a small room from the family of a boy in her class and moved in. She wasn't able to take Ann with her, but she wrote to her frequently. In very detailed letters she would tell her daughter all about her new home and all that she was doing. Ann wouldn't see her mother again until the end of the school year.

The reunion between mother and daughter was short-lived and Ethel wasted no time letting Ann and Jesse-Claude know it. She had only returned to gather some of her things before departing once again to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, around 400 miles away, for her master's degree. For one reason or another, she didn't go through with her plan and returned home in the fall. She took a job in the town of Liberal that she had to drive 32 miles each way to get to. Of course the town Hugoton was scandalized to hear that a woman was driving herself back and forth to work, assuming that she was having an affair rather than a job. Though many disliked her choice to work, Ethel didn't care what they thought. She kept her job and continued to educate young minds, giving the youth a special gift. The tools to better their own circumstances.

Ann was nearly 5-years-old when her father sent her to live with her aunt Lynda, a school teacher back in Ann's birthplace of Pittsburg, Kansas. While she was under the care of her aunt, Jesse-Claude attempted to convince his wife to come back home and help with the farm. She packed all of her and her daughter's belongings and left. She had found a small cabin just outside the town of Johnson for her and Ann. Along with her new home, she also found a new job teaching at a three-room high school above the post office nearby. She sent her husband a monthly income to help out and brought Ann back to visit every two to three months.

Whispers and gossip swirled about Ethel's head concerning her fraught marriage. Many of the women in her new town disliked her for arriving without a husband in tow. Many more were jealous of her for it. It surprised no one, least of all Ethel, when Jesse-Claude asked for a divorce shortly after her move. Without any quarreling the couple divided everything evenly. When the issue of Ann's custody came about the real fight began.

Jesse-Claude was determined to get permanent custody of his daughter, and he was willing to try discrediting Ethel to get it. He made allegations that he believed her to be having an affair. For this reason, he argued, she was an unfit mother. This gave way to an ugly back-and-forth that lasted for a few months before he finally gave up his battle. He said that Ethel had just become too attached to Ann since the death of their son and he couldn't bear to hurt her in such a way. His sudden change of heart had nothing to do with sympathy for his wife. In reality, Ethel had caught him having an affair and threatened to expose the truth if he didn't drop his petition for custody. The divorce was final in November 1923, and Ann remained with her mother.

Ann was only 8-years-old at the time of her parents' divorce. Though instability had already become the norm, now she would get to add scorn to her difficult childhood experience. Her mother was a walking scandal in her time and her family treated her as such. Ethel was the first member of their family to ever get divorced. The shameful, dishonorable sin in which she had committed in allowing her husband to divorce her simply could not be suffered silently by her family. The way that Ethel led her life left them aghast. Going to school, going to work, living on her own, and supporting her daughter as a single mother. Though this is typical today, it wasn't heard of in Ethel's time.

After the divorce was final and the ink had set on the paperwork, Ethel moved herself and Ann back to Pittsburg, Kansas to be closer to relatives. Though they vocally disagreed with her life choices and thought that she should return to her husband, they still helped her to care for Ann as she worked. After three years back in Ann's birthplace they were finally able to move into a small house. It was a big accomplishment for a woman all on her own in the 20s.

Jesse-Claude left the state of Kansas to find work in Detroit, Michigan. The pay he made was very little. After expenses, he barely had enough left over to live on, let alone send money back to help Ethel. It was out of fear that he might one day return looking to take his daughter back from her that Ethel began a smear campaign on her ex. She lambasted him to her daughter, telling her that he refused to help them with groceries or living expenses. When Jesse-Claude sent his daughter letters, Ethel intercepted and destroyed them. Before long, Ethel had effectively erased her father from Ann's life. Ann would believe all her life that her father had simply not cared for her.

In Detroit, Jesse-Claude eventually found work as a trolley car conductor. He never spoke with his daughter again, but believed that she went on achieve great things. Her father believed that Ann had chased down her Hollywood dream and transformed herself into actress Eve Arden. Jesse-Claude would end up a destitute drunk that lived out the rest of his days in Detroit. During her ascension of the New York social ladder, Ann would claim that her father had been a Colonel in the Army and that he was dead.

By the age of 11, Ann had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up. She longed to be an actress, gracing the silver screen alongside her favorites. She would strut back and forth in front of the mirror, reciting poems and lines from school plays. Much to Ethel's dismay, Ann would stride into the kitchen and assume the seductive poses she'd seen in magazines and movies. She would declare to her mother that when she finally made it to Hollywood all of the troubles would be over.

By 1926, nearly three years had passed since her divorce from Jesse-Claude and Ethel was 30-years-old. She had started giving lectures on the history of the United States and the state of Kansas at Pittsburg's First Christian Church. Every evening, she would passionately speak to a crowded room of attentive listeners. Always in a long dress flowing around her ankles and her hair loose about her shoulders, she arrived at church to teach history with a fervor few others ever have.

A man named Percy Victor Jordan began attending her lectures and found himself quite smitten with the schoolteacher. He would hang around after her lessons, where he would wait his turn to talk. He told her that he and his 17-year-old son, Charles, were living at the home of a widow. Ethel was quite a bit younger than the man pursuing her affections, but was taken with him nonetheless. She enjoyed his flirtations and the two quickly became increasingly serious about one another. Ann seethed as her mother started devoting her attention to a strange man they did not know. She worried about what this recent development meant for her. Would the needs of this man and his son be put ahead of her own?

In the beginning, Ann outwardly showed her distaste for this newcomer. She kept Percy Victor at arm's length as much as it frustrated her mother. Ethel and Ann began to fight more viciously than they ever had before, with Ethel even slapping her on occasion for expressing her repugnance for her new boyfriend and his presence in their home. Eventually, Ann stopped arguing as she saw it was getting her nowhere in this battle of wits. She plastered on the same seductive smile that would one day take her far and made it her armor.

Ann's mounting concerns likely seemed like they were confirmed one morning when she was 12-years-old. Typically when she woke up in the morning it was to the smells and sounds of breakfast cooking. Then one morning the house was eerily silent, and smells of eggs and bacon were absent. Ann was afraid to leave her bed for a time. When she finally rose, she found a note from her mother explaining that she had asked Percy Victor to marry her, and he agreed. It said nothing more. For all she knew, her mother had run off with another man and his son and left her all alone to fend for herself. She was terrified.

Distress and depression drove Ann back to her bed for the day. She believed that she had been abandoned for another life with another family. As she cried for herself and her desperate situation, Ethel returned. She brought Percy Victor and his son, Charles, with her. Though Ann was disappointed to see this man and his sullen son moving into their home, she was just happy in that moment to not have been cast aside. Rather than pushing against her circumstances, Ann just smiled and played the part of the doting daughter. While she dutifully helped in any way she could with the extra work that came as part of accommodating two additional people, Ann prayed for an end to her mother's marriage.

Marital bliss didn't last long before the fissures of a bad relationship started to surface. Percy Victor was a particular man that wanted things done a certain way. The dusting, washing, folding, and cooking all had to be done his way. Even the furniture needed to be situated to his liking and the plants watered his own way as well. Even though it had been Ethel's history lessons that had allowed them to meet and get to know each other, Percy Victor demanded she quit giving her lectures. She was becoming too popular for his liking and he wasn't willing to share his new bride with anyone else. This was only the beginning. He had allowed the first dark, shadowy glimpses of his controlling, jealous nature to show themselves, and they weren't going to get any better.

Her new husband disapproved of her continued studies to earn her master's degree from the University of Kansas and he didn't keep his opinions quiet. Even if she enrolled in correspondence courses, he still wasn't happy. At that time Ethel was already enrolled in several criminology and psychology classes. Percy Victor wondered if this was the kind of material a woman should be studying. Furthermore, he wondered about the kind of woman that actually wanted to study such things. When he demanded that she drop out of her courses as well, she was reasonably saddened and angered by his exercise in masculinity. She relented anyway with the hope that he would eventually change his mind. After all, the marriage was still new and there was time for change.

Of course there would be no change. Arguments continued to erupt over Ethel's education until one night he just stormed out the door, with Ethel screaming after him in a rage. Ann was above the staircase listening intently to the explosion of opinions and emotions. Though she would never outwardly admit it to her mother, she was happy to hear the door slam behind her stepfather as he left with his mopey son in tow. The unhappy couple had only been married mere weeks at this point, but Ann hoped that this was the end. Ethel was also happy to see them go, especially Charles. He had done nothing but sulk from the moment they arrived and she was tired of him brooding about her house.

One they were gone, Ethel packed their belongings once again and prepared for another move. This time they were off to Lawrence, Kansas, nearly 150 miles away. Ethel wrote to her mother to let her know where they were at and to beg that she not disclose their location to Percy Victor. She did just the opposite.

For a month after their move all was peaceful. Ann was enrolled in yet another new school and made no friends there, either. By this point in her life she was accustomed to living as a lone wolf. She was constantly on the move, never settling in one place for too long. One more move was a small cost to have her stepfather out of her life, though.

A month after their arrival in Lawrence, Percy Victor came pounding at their door in the chilly, dewy dawn. He arrived with the morning light, but he was no ray of sunshine to behold that morning. Ethel woke her daughter from her sleep and sent her outside to play as she spoke with her husband. When Ann was brought back inside, finally starting to wake up and come around to the situation, she saw her stepfather standing in the center of the small room. Her mother rushed about packing their things again. They were abandoning their brand new, short-lived life to return to Percy Victor's iron rule. They dismally dragged their possessions behind their controlling, evil overseer and towards their future of servitude.

Though she followed her husband back home, she didn't follow his order to discontinue her education. She simply enrolled in correspondence courses and kept her books and homework well hidden. While her husband was away at work during the day, Ethel was working hard on her graduate degree. For a while this seemed to be going well. That is until Percy Victor came home from work early one day to find her working on her schoolwork. He was furious and a huge fight ensued, in which he threatened to leave if she didn't drop out of school. The fight grew louder, drawing Ann down the hallway to investigate. She found her mother punching her stepfather repeatedly in her wrath.

In the summer of 1927, Ethel tried convincing him to allow her to finish her graduate degree courses, or at the very least let her start lecturing at the church again. Believing the woman's place to be in the home, keeping the house and raising children, he flat refused her request. Ann knew her mother well. Ethel was far too strong-willed of a woman to allow him to continue rolling over top of her.

One night they got into another argument over Ethel's desire for education and Percy Victor walked out again. She quickly packed up her and Ann's belongings and hauled them back to Lawrence. Ann was enrolled in the 8th grade while her mother finished her courses and earned her master's.

By this tender point in Ann's development, she had already given up on making friends. She was okay with remaining to herself. She had grown used to it. When she started school in Lawrence for the second time, she didn't even try to be friendly with anyone. What was the point? They would undoubtedly end up picking up roots that had never truly been laid to start with to move again before long. As it turned out, she was right.

Ethel came to the decision that she didn't want to deal with her family anymore. They had never been anything but scandalized by her and the choices she made. When she had left Jesse-Claude, they had all relentlessly hounded her to go back to him. It would be no different this time around. As a matter of fact it would be worse. Ethel was pregnant.

That July she returned to Pittsburg to see a doctor about her pregnancy. While she was there she also filed for divorce from her husband. Strapped for cash as was her lot in life, Ethel skipped out on her doctor's bill. She and Ann stayed with her mother briefly before they moved again, this time to Kansas City. Her mother thought this decision to be ludicrous. She was already supporting one child on her own and she was pregnant with another. How would she take care of them in Kansas City with no husband?

Ethel's mother pressed her to return to her husband, but she refused. She had managed to get away and earn her graduate degree. She wasn't about to turn around and go crawling back. Instead she was going to put her degrees to work, teaching in a bigger city. Unfortunately she quickly learned that teaching jobs were hard to come by without connections in Kansas City.

Compounding the sense of depressing helplessness she felt after arriving in Kansas City was the loss of her baby just before the move. Ethel went into labor early, likely due to the severe amount of stress and pressure from her family and her life. She delivered a stillborn baby girl that she named Mary Elizabeth Jordan. This only added to the crushing loss of her 4-year-old son years before. Ann had no idea how to console her mother. She didn't even know if there was consolation for such a loss.

Pushing through more grief than a person should ever have to experience, Ethel carted herself and her daughter off to Kansas City. Even with experience in her field, degrees, and letters of recommendation, she still couldn't find work teaching anywhere. As it turned out one needed personal or political connections within the city to secure such a job. New in town and not familiar with anyone, this put Ethel in a bind. Making matters worse less than a year after they arrived, the Great Depression slapped the entire country into poverty almost overnight. She scoured the newspapers for work, but found nothing. Growing desperation sent Ethel's mind wandering as she tried to find alternative ways of earning money.

Still in possession of some savings, she purchased a few cars. Having a preference for the Chrysler DeSoto this was the type of car she chose to launch her own business. She started her own taxi service and hired drivers. Operating out of her rented apartment at 813 West Thirty-Ninth Street, she hung a sign dubbing her company the Westport Taxi and Livery Service. She was able to lease four more DeSotos and hire more drivers before long.

Typically she hired men that would not have found work elsewhere. Her drivers were rough around the edges. Dangerous men that toted pistols and knives as they drove around the city, often getting drunk and stealing the cab fares. A typical day on the job saw these drivers dealing with pimps, madams, gangsters, and bootleggers. It was no wonder that these men were so rugged and gritty with the kinds of people they encountered everyday.

Obviously, Ethel was looked down upon by others in the city for employing men. The fact that she hired men of such ill repute only made their glares all the more accusing. Women of her time were expected to stand quietly at their husband's side, obeying his every command. A single mother not only working for a living, but running her own business and employing men was an appalling thought during that time. She ignored the judgement of others in the city and the blatant misogyny of her employees as she carried on and carved out a living for herself and Ann.

Ethel knew well the kind of men she was employing. She knew that they were dangerous and they weren't above turning their attention towards a teenage girl. It was because of this reason that she warned her now teenage daughter against them. Ann followed her mother's direction and left the drivers alone. For the most part she kept to herself, doing homework in the small office of their business/home. She barely ever uttered a word to them, but she heard her mother's heated arguments with them often. Though she may have wanted to take up for Ethel in those moments, she was far too young and too frightened to step in. Instead she cowered quietly as her mother took charge and put her employees back in their place, as much as they hated her for it.

Many of her employees resented the fact that they answered to a woman. To get back at her for merely being the first lady boss they'd ever seen, they would make jokes and jabs about her face and appearance. Ethel's hard-knock life had caught up with her over the years, leaving her face and figure both gaunt. Many years of hard work and little sleep had also given her a sickly-looking pallor that may have left many thinking her defenseless. She began to develop a racking cough that came in fits that were so violent they caused her to vomit. Her lack of sleep also caused fainting spells that often occurred in the bathroom. Rather than show this sickly woman that gave them opportunity through employment some kind of gratitude or respect, they just ridiculed her. Never mind the fact that no one else in the city was willing to hire them besides her.

Ann could plainly hear their remarks and quips and she resented them just as much as they resented her mother for making them. Though she disliked the awful things they said about her, Ann also came to hate her mother during this point in her life. Why hadn't she provided better for them? In her mixed up cocktail of teenage emotions, she also pitied her mother for the hard life she'd led. Ann didn't want to end like her. Working every second of every day as she gradually deteriorated into nothing only to come up short anyway. Her determination to get out and make something big of herself was only further cemented. One day she would be able to say that she didn't even remember what it had been like to struggle.

By 1931 the Great Depression had almost swallowed the entire country whole. That same year new ordinances were implemented that required taxi companies to be licensed by the state. Ethel was left shocked and angered when several of her drivers stole her cabs around this same time. They drove her cars to Jefferson City, where they registered her cabs and her company name under their own names. In one swoop they managed to steal the Westport Taxi and Livery Service and all of the numbers on its roster out from under her. Ethel was forced to start all over from scratch with a new company under a new name, with a new number. She was disheartened, but not deterred.

The shack that served as their business/home was just that. A small shack that sat directly in front of the Roanoke Movie Theatre. The taxi company's back door opened straight into the theatre's men's room. The strong and revolting stench of urine and feces was inescapable in the tiny shack that was hardly meant for living, let alone running a business. An oil-stained cot in the back was where Ann laid her head every night. It was close enough to the back door for one to feel as though they were sleeping right in the bathroom. Her meals on a day-to-day basis consisted of cold sandwiches, and nothing more. The smells and tastes of her former life in Kansas City would continue to haunt her well into her later life.

As Ann entered her last few months of high school all of her free time was spent working for her mother at the taxi company. Her time working for Ethel only made her all the more certain that she did not want to get stuck in that same kind of drudgery for the rest of her life. She worked hard at school and earned such high grades that she was offered admission to a small Illinois college upon graduation. With no money for tuition, Ann was stuck at the cab company eking out a mediocre living. She couldn't ask Ethel for the money because she didn't have enough to cover Ann's education. After graduating high school it seemed to Ann that her life was going nowhere fast. She needed to do something drastic and make a change if she wanted to improve her circumstances.

She still very much harbored dreams of Hollywood. Ann had watched her favorite actresses at the movies as though she were studying for her own part. Feeling that a more aristocratic-sounding name might better her chances of one day stumbling into stardom, she changed her name from Angeline to Ann Eden. Ethel was aghast at her choice in name just as much as the name-change itself. What offended her even more was the way Ann began sauntering around the shack. She rehearsed her runway strut, her seductive glances, and her reactions to the men around her. When her mother admonished her, she simply replied that she was only practicing. Though she never said what she was practicing for.

No one could deny that Ann had blossomed into a great beauty. Her curvy figure stopped men in their tracks. Her alluring blue-green eyes drew them in for the kill. Her blonde hair was further lightened with peroxide for the platinum look. By the age of 22, Ann was a bombshell waiting to explode.

Looking for any way out of the taxi shack that smelled of urine, Ann took a job at a department store. Shortly after starting an executive from the main division noticed her and asked if she wanted to appear in advertisements. She accepted the offer and it quickly led to bigger things. She felt as though she were on the very same trajectory as her favorite actresses.

Another executive in the main office saw her pictures and thought them good enough to send to a friend of his, John Robert Powers. He was the owner of a large and very well-known modeling agency based in New York. Unwilling to just sit around waiting for a callback, Ann devised a plan. One way or another she would get to New York to see this man in person. She knew that if he just saw her face he wouldn't be able to turn her away.

She withdrew what savings she had put back and bought a car specifically for the purpose of driving cross-country to launch her career herself. While Ethel thought her intention every bit as crazy as her mother had thought her moving them to Kansas City had been, she understood. Ann had the same itch to get out and do better that she had once known so well. Now, Ethel was happy to make it through the day without fainting or throwing up. If her daughter was this confident in herself, Ethel wasn't going to stand in her way. The frail and aging woman that knew no sleep had been known for keeping a pouch sewn into her bra that contained crumpled $5 bills. Before Ann left to start her life anew, her mother slipped $400 in crumpled $5 bills in her hand before hugging tightly. Today that amount would be worth a staggering $8,812.73.

Ann loved everything about New York. The busy streets almost seemed to hum with energy. She would often walk the streets just taking that energy in and trying to harness it for herself. Everything seemed brighter and shiner on the other side of the fence. Opportunity and potential could be seen around every corner. One just simply needed to reach out and take it. Wearing her best clingy dress and spiked heels, she was ready to grab it by the horns.

She was no doubt a vision when she walked into Powers's office for the first time. He didn't see it, though. Walking into the office fully expecting to be admitted without question, Ann was disappointed to find a waiting room full of women. They were all there waiting to be auditioned as models. She was horribly let down, thinking that Powers had only wanted to see her. Not for a second did she think that she'd run into other models at a modeling agency. She returned the following day to find a fresh crop of faces waiting for an audition. So she came back again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Ann kept coming back to the agency day after day until she finally met John Powers for herself. He was impressed with the gusto she had shown in returning to his office every single day. He just had to come out and meet the girl that so badly wanted an audience with him. Upon seeing the ravishing beauty that was Ann Eden, he decided to give her a shot. Powers said that she was much too curvy to model clothing, but they could definitely use her face. Quickly afterward Ann started appearing in print advertisements.

It was at Powers's request that Ann got a nose job. One of her favorite actresses, Joan Crawford, had done something similar in the beginning of her career. Look where it had gotten her! Ann thought nothing of it and borrowed the money she needed to have the procedure. If this was what it took to take a modeling career and turn it into an acting career then she was game.

As her modeling career took off, Ann continued to star gaze towards Hollywood. The jobs that Powers booked for her were making her plenty of money, though. She moved into a small apartment at 315 East Fiftieth Street and decked it out in the colorful curtains and cozy furniture that made it home to her. The walls held pictures of all of the stars she wanted to one day work beside. Though she was content in her life at the time, she could just feel more coming on the horizon.

Auditions weren't hard to locate. One only needed to look in the newspaper as though they were job hunting. Ann did just this and managed to attend auditions to off-off Broadway productions in her personal time. She always walked in ready to read for the lead role, but always ended up reading for smaller parts instead.

Many of the other women she had met in the modeling world had also crossed over into the world of acting, trying to pursue their real dream. These women would share news about auditions with one another to help each other out. Ann found some bit parts in small plays that few ever saw, but she never did find that big break into a major production. It didn't bother her, though. She saw these smaller shows as practice. She was happy for the opportunity to hone her craft in a smaller setting where few would see her mistakes. There was also the opportunity to meet agents and producers, which she was not above dating to further her career.

Ann appeared in many magazine ads for Lux and Camay Soap while also posing for make-up campaigns. Powers was getting her plenty of work, but she was beginning to suspect him of holding out on her. It's very likely that he was withholding money out of her paydays, padding his own pockets with his client's hard work. She was in no position to say anything, though. In this time for a woman to confront her male manager for stealing from her was to sacrifice a career she had to beat all odds for to start with. If she called him out on the missing money her jobs would likely dissolve overnight. Rather than risk it, she just remained silent.

At the age of 25 Ann had been living in New York for three years with no signs of her big break. She had been promised that her nose job would make her more marketable, but nothing had really seemed to change much. Voice lessons, dance lessons, grooming sessions, and special walking instruction were consuming her time, but not helping at all. She worked harder at her classes than anyone else, but she still couldn't seem to come out on top of it all.

In the late 1930s she joined a traveling acting and dance show, departing with the troupe in hopes of stardom. Joan Crawford had also found her start in a traveling acting troupe. Why couldn't she? The experience turned out to be a very positive one. She loved traveling with the troupe and preforming in the shows. It also provided her with a much-needed boost of self-esteem after the battering she'd taken in the New York theatre scene. It would also bring her and her mother back together again.

The show left Cincinnati on its way to Chicago, where Ann would write to her mother with the desire to reconnect. Early that April the troupe would be arriving in Kansas City and she hoped to meet with Ethel before they departed to Wichita. It had been a few years since the two had seen each other, but Ann hardly recognized her mother when she stepped off the train to meet her. All of the spirit that she had once been known for was waning. More gaunt than ever before, Ann could feel her ribs poking through her skin as she hugged her. A yellow hue had overtaken her skin and it seemed to take all of the strength she had just to muster a smile for her daughter. Ethel could hardly speak to greet her as she had a persistent sore throat that had gone untreated for months. Ethel had no money to see a doctor so she had allowed herself to slowly break down into a corpse.

The pair left straight from the train station to see a doctor. The original plan had been to have lunch together, but that could wait. The grave look on the doctor's face when he walked into the room told Ann all that she needed to know. It was bad. He immediately recommended that Ethel see a specialist as soon as possible. She hired an ambulance to take her mother to Barnes Hospital right away. During their long trip she wondered if her mother's life of hard work, anxiety, smoking, and sleepless nights had been the cause of her illness. She also couldn't help but to wonder if that would be her destiny as well.

At the hospital, Ann was left pacing the corridor outside the exam room as she waited to hear about her mother. She was diagnosed with a rare form of lung disease typically only found in cattle. It's called M. Bovis and it's a type of tuberculosis. There was little doctors there could do for her aside from making her comfortable. Ann made the decision to move her mother back to New York with her, where Ethel would live full-time at a hospital receiving care to make her as comfortable as possible.

Ann was forced to give up the small apartment that she loved so much for a studio to save money for her mother's care. Rather than auditioning for plays, she sat by her mother's bedside through most of the day. Depression overwhelmed her as she watched her own life spiral into that of her mother's. So many dreams and goals left unaccomplished despite how close they both came to accomplishing them.

In need of a job that would allow her to work at night while she sat with her mother during the day, Ann started working at a club called Fefe's Monte Carlo as a dancer. Located on Fifty-Fourth Street near the famous club, El Morocco, Fefe's saw many Hollywood and Broadway producers within its walls. Ann still held out a glimmer of hope that one of these men might be able to breathe a little life back into her stagnant career. By this point World War II was already well underway, but Manhattan's club scene never suffered as a result. Ann worked the midnight to 3 AM shows while spending what time she had left with her mother in the daytime. When she could, she would still try to attend auditions for plays.

A precursor to the Playboy bunnies, twice every night the dancers at Fefe's would step on the stage dressed strikingly similarly to the bunnies that graced the bedroom walls of teenage boys for decades. In white bathing suits, black fishnet stockings, high heels, pink and white bunny ears, and fluffy white cottontails the women all assembled on stage for a performance. Due to her lack of inhibition, Ann was a crowd favorite at the club.

When they weren't dancing, the bunnies would mingle with the guests, even having a drink or two with them in one of the banquettes reserved for more private conversations. It wasn't uncommon to see celebrities enter the crowded club on any night of the week. On more than one occasion Ann had been seen chatting it up with Charlie Chaplin as she sat across from him in one of these private banquettes. The wealthy patrons were known to give gifts to women they favored. These women were not above accepting their generous offers, either. Even in this atmosphere, Ann found herself subjected to scrutiny similar to her mother's. The other dancers whispered that she was having sex with the guests for extra money.

Ethel breathed her last breath in March 1941. Her death came just days after her 45th birthday. Just before her passing Ann had been at her side, but was told by a doctor that her mother was stable. She should go home and get some rest. No sooner than Ann walked into her tiny studio apartment did the phone ring, echoing ominously through the small space. The news came as a blow, especially since she missed being with her as she passed by mere moments. Her wishes had been to be buried back in Kansas alongside her children, but Ann arranged a viewing for her in Manhattan at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home. Immediately afterward she was sent back to Kansas, where her children had already been laid to rest.

Ethel's remains were put on a train and sent to Kansas City's Union Station on March 31. Ann took her mother back to Pittsburg to be buried herself. When she arrived she was received by her two aunts, Lynda and Edna, with an expected coolness. They had always looked down upon Ethel for the rough life she had chosen for herself. No doubt they were looking down at her then, thinking that she had brought her death on herself somehow. She was laid to rest in the Cromwell family plot at the Mount Olive Cemetery. As soon as the funeral was over Ann returned home to New York and to work at Fefe's.

William Woodward Sr. was a very wealthy man that had frequented Fefe's Monte Carlo since before Ann's arrival. When she began working there he couldn't help but to notice her, and she couldn't help but to impress. She was so different from all the women in his high society circle. The mere fact that she was able to set herself apart from everyone around her, and even those not around her, thrilled William. There had been other dancers that he showered with his attention and money before her. She was hardly the first woman to turn his head at that club. Nevertheless, she accepted his gifts, and there were many.

Ann's introduction to William came on the heels of her mother's death. She was still grief-stricken and vulnerable. He invited her over to his table to have a drink one night and the relationship between them quickly took root from there, blossoming into a full-blown affair. William may not have been the kind of man to leave his wife for a mistress, but he also made sure that the mistresses he kept were thoroughly spoiled. Ann received fancy dresses that she would never find an occasion to wear, expensive jewelry she could've never afforded, overpriced perfume, and of course money to blow. He began taking her to the race track as he had with all the others before her as horse racing was a big part of his life.

William didn't have a gambling problem. He was heavily involved in racehorse-breeding and even owned his own stable for the purpose. It had become a passion of his that he would day pass along to his son, as it had been passed on to him by his uncle. It was William's uncle that originally started the stable that would raise the Woodward family further into high society. The Belair Stud and Farm bred, raised, and trained horses for the races. He was more proud of his stud farm than anything else in his life. He had built it up into a breeding stable after he inherited it and used that stable to launch his family higher into society.

The Woodwards were old money that had come into their fortune through banking. When William's uncle passed, he left his nephew well fixed with the Hanover National Bank and the Belair Stud and Farm. As his uncle had no wife or children when he died and William's father had died many years before, he was named the sole heir to everything his uncle had acquired.

He had always been seen as a handsome, intelligent, witty, well-dressed man. Always dressed in the latest fashions of the time, he was also known for the top hat that he added to his ensembles. When one spoke with him it quickly became clear that he was more comfortable around the British royals he was known to hobnob with than the New York financiers that he did business with. In his earlier life he had spent quite a bit of time in England and absolutely loved the country and everything about it. In is later years he would fondly reminisce about his time there.

When Ann met him he wore wide-rimmed glasses and like most of the men in his family, a sleek, well-groomed and kept mustache. He carried a white-tipped cane, but more for fashion than for any other purpose. Everything about his personality was purely British, instilled in him during his most favorite of years.

During William's bachelor years, he had been entangled with a woman named Mary Gaulet from a very prominent Dutch family. They owned a lot of impressive real estate in both the Netherlands and the U.S., particularly in New York. Though William had never proposed marriage, there was an unspoken belief within their circles that the two would eventually get married. Instead of marrying this distinguished woman, dripping with pedigree, William broke off their relationship and met someone else.

It was at a horse race in Saratoga that Elsie Cryder first caught the attention of William Woodward Sr. Also from a prominent family, Elsie's father was a businessman in New York. He and a group of other businessmen founded the Long Island Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1891. Her family had recently moved back to the city from Paris after having spent several years there hiding from scandal. Elsie's uncle had been caught embezzling money from his own bank. While the stench of his dirty laundry was airing out, the rest of the family lived in Parisian luxury as they waited for things to die down. There, Elsie grew up becoming well aware of the kinds of consequences scandals can have on a family. She spent the rest of her life determined to never let another scandal like that befall her or the ones she loved.

William took his time before courting her, but the couple eventually made it down the aisle. In October 1904, Elsie Cryder said "I do" and became Mrs. Woodward in a wedding ceremony that was hailed by newspapers for its elegance. Her honeymoon had a dark cloud cast over it, though when the papers named her husband's ex, Mary Gaulet, the better and more beautiful choice of bride for him. She also quickly found that their sexual appetites didn't match in the least. While William had an insatiable appetite, Elsie had none at all.

Even though William was already the vice president at Central Hanover Bank, he opted out of buying a home for him and his new wife. Instead, Elsie was forced to spend the first years of her marriage living with her mother-in-law. William saw no problem with this as the large brownstone on Fifty-First Street had plenty of room to accommodate them all. Elsie didn't appreciate the arrangement near as much as she was left alone with her critical mother-in-law while her new husband busied himself with work and horse racing. What free time he had from work, he spent at the stud farm. When he did finally spend a little time with his wife, all he talked about was horses and racing. When she gave birth to the first of their children, a daughter they named Edith, William kept himself otherwise preoccupied as he missed all of his daughter's firsts. Elsie took up afternoon naps as some kind of hobby as she began complaining of headaches and secluding herself in her bedroom and away from her mother-in-law.

William didn't finally decide to buy a home for his growing family until their second child was born, another daughter named Elizabeth, called Libby for short. Though their house was only five blocks from William's mother, Elsie was just happy to be out of her house. In their new home at 9 East Fifty-Sixth Street they grew their family some more, adding three more children to their brood. Sarah and Ethel arrived into the world before the one and only Woodward son, Billy. By the birth of his fifth child, William still hadn't changed his ways. As he stayed busy with work and Elsie continuously retired with headaches, he was mostly doted upon by his older sisters. They seemed to think that their baby brother was a doll merely there to play dress-up with.

Needless to say, Elsie and William's relationship faltered from the moment they left the church as husband and wife. As soon as he had his prize mare, he cast her aside for younger, more attractive, adventurous women. It's not as though Elsie was unaware of her husband's philandering. Secrets weren't easily kept in their elite circles. She knew that William spent time with other women while visiting England. She also knew that his affairs didn't stall when he was back in New York, either.

While William was either busy at the farm, working, or conducting one of his many affairs, Elsie found a way of occupying herself. She started holding social salons with all of her friends, which included many people within the theater world. By the 1920s, Elsie was holding the most well-known salon in all of New York. These are not the same kind of salon that we know today, where one might make an appointment to have their hair done and talk shop. No, the salons of yesteryear were social gatherings, where intelligent minds would come together for stimulating discussion. These gatherings seemed a great comfort to Elsie, especially in her later life. She would continue to hold her salons until her death.

William didn't want to be the cause of a scandal. He was well aware of the transgression that sent Elsie's family fleeing the country years earlier. The last thing he wanted was to haul his family out of the United States in disgrace because of his own decisions. Sitting across from Ann at a corner table at Fefe's, he gave this very reason when he ended their relationship. Though he was breaking it off, he still wanted to keep the seductress he'd grown so fond of nearby somehow. His idea of how to do so was nothing short of insane. And it set into motion a set of events that would lead to a much worse scandal than he could've ever anticipated.

William Woodward Sr. proposed that Ann seduce his son, Billy. Though his son was an eligible bachelor in the newspapers, he seemed to hold no interest or desire in having a girlfriend. Rumors abound that the young Woodward was gay. In the 1940s these were not rumors that anyone wanted swirling around about them. During this time it was still illegal to be gay in the United States. William wanted to quiet these ugly tales once and for all by getting his son laid for what he presumed to be the first time. Showing Ann a picture of Billy, he explained his situation and set up the perfect scenario for his son to lose his virginity.

One night not too long after, Billy wandered into Fefe's Monte Carlo with his reckless and outgoing friend, Bean Baker, by his side. The two had been lifelong friends, getting into mischief together since childhood while their parents were otherwise preoccupied. Bean had always been the more impetuous of the pair. Billy was more reserved. It was 2:45 in the morning when they walked into the club looking for a good time. Ann saw Billy immediately when she peeked from behind the curtain. She was backstage preparing for her 3:00 AM show. As Billy sat in the audience, he was completely unprepared for what was coming at him.

After her show, Ann and a friend were invited over to Billy and Bean's table. As she sat down across from her mark, Ann could easily see that this was going to be only too simple to pull off. Billy was just 22 at the time, while was 27 and much more experienced than him. She used all of the charm and sensuality that she had honed back at the taxi shack in Kansas City to draw him in. Knowing well the kind of effect she had on men, she put all of her feminine wiles to use.

As she sat across the table, Ann lit a cigarette. Billy couldn't help but to find himself stricken. She wore a bra that was too small for her, causing her breasts to spill out of containment. Her black stockings and bunny outfit always drew attention around the club, but it had gripped Billy's imagination. Ann knew that she already had him where she wanted him before speaking the first word. Billy would later recount this introduction as a pre-plotted seduction scene, orchestrated by an older, more experienced woman in order to get what she really wanted. Money, status, and power.

It wasn't long after their meet cute that the pair began dating. This was not what William Woodward Sr. had in mind when he arranged their meeting. He had intended for his son to lose his virginity so that he might be more inclined towards relationships with women. His goal was to put an end to the rumors spreading throughout high society about Billy's sexuality. What he ended up with was a classic scenario of 'be careful what you wish for.'

When Billy took her out on their first date, he went all out. In a very public display, he took her to the famous and fashionable 21 Club on West Fifty-Second Street. He ordered the $20 dinner for her, which was known as the best in the city. Today that meal would be worth $370.35. Ann was always watching her weight, so she hardly even picked at her plate. Billy also ate little that night out of pure nervousness. When he ordered an expensive bottle of champagne, he was relieved when she drank with him.

Though Ann was only five years older than her date, she still felt wiser and more experienced due to his behavior towards her. She had grown so used to dealing with men that already knew well what they wanted and how to go about getting it. Billy was still so young and naive about these things. For the first time in her life, Ann had the upper hand and she was relishing it. As she gazed into this innocent boy's eyes, she could see the kind of life she had always imagined for herself. A life that she had started to think out of reach, until now. As Billy gazed back at her, he saw something he'd never realized he craved. A woman directly contrasting those he'd known all his life within his stuffy, elite circle.

Gauging his reaction to the news, Ann told him that her mother had recently passed away. Unsure of what to say, he just fidgeted nervously. She broke the awkward silence by telling him that she and her mother had argued a lot. He seemed beguiled by the fact that she had spoken back to her mother. Where he came from speaking up to a parent wasn't an option, even in adulthood. Billy was pleasantly surprised to find that she was a fan of horses and racing. Ann conveniently left out the detail that his father had exposed her to the races during their affair. She knew that she had already won the game and wasn't willing to endanger that.

Billy fell hard for the woman that he saw as different from the pack he'd run with all his life. She was defiant and unwilling to bend to the will of others. She dripped with sensuality and oozed desirability. The pot was only further sweetened by the fact that the mere thought of Ann set his parents ill at ease. He understood his mother's discomfort well enough. Elsie was from an old money family that didn't care for outsiders. His father's unease was slightly more surprising, though. Little did he know that William and Ann were hiding a secret between them.

It was a hot, sunny day on August 15, 1942 when Billy arrived at Ann's studio apartment to take her out for a day at the races. He drove his favorite car, which he called his "Studillac." It was a customized hardtop Studebaker that he would favor over all of his other cars until his death. Billy wore a bow tie with the Belair Stud and Farm's red and white colors. Ann came down wearing a clingy green dress that accentuated her curvy features and a large, floppy hat to complete her ensemble.

A valet took the car when they arrived at Saratoga's race track for their date. When they walked into the clubhouse already filled with much of New York's upper crust, Ann didn't realize that she was walking into the lion's den. All of the eyes in the room borrowed into her with disgust, but none more so than Elsie Woodward. This woman was loud, brash, and far too bold for a lady. She drank and smoked openly without the slightest regard for how she may be seen. Thinking it would be a cute and endearing gesture, Ann removed a red flower from a table arrangement and placed it in Billy's lapel. A quick gauge of the room around her told her that she had done something terribly wrong. Everyone was shocked and appalled by the impropriety.

While Ann likely struggled to feel comfortable so far out of her element, Billy was having the time of his life. Normally he loathed such events as these. Much like the balls and galas his mother forced him into, it was all nothing more than an imposition thrust on him as a part of his privileged life. They were duties that he fulfilled with dread and disgust. Bringing Ann to such an event was his way of thumbing his nose at the establishment that had raised him. Their discomfort and repugnance thrilled him.

Elsie took one look at Ann and knew exactly what her game was. She was a gold digger merely out for her son's $10 million trust. As Billy's substantial trust fund was often publicized in the papers, this wasn't an out-of-way assumption. She once told a friend that she would've preferred Billy marry one of the housemaids. At least then they would know where the girl had come from.

William was downright uncomfortable whenever she was near. The thought of his previous mistress continuing to date his son and meeting his wife was more than his nerves could bear. Would they find out that he had taken Ann to the very same Saratoga track before his son had? Would she let slip a detail about their weekend in Maryland while the rest of the Woodward family was away on vacation? Or, even worse, would she admit to being set up by William to seduce his son? His mind raced with the possibilities every time she came around. He knew well that this woman had the power and the information to ruin him if she chose to. Instead she chose to remain tight-lipped so as not to jeopardize her chances of winning a seat at the table of elitists.

Even without the full knowledge of the truth, Elsie detested her. Had she known the truth of how this woman came into their lives, she would've had a heart attack. Ann's behavior was an offense against the society to which they belonged. Everywhere Billy took her, she garnered stares from all around that she either didn't notice, or just didn't care about. This particularly rubbed Elsie the wrong way.

From the very day her son had been born, Elsie had been planning his future, and his wedding. She would be damned if some showgirl was going to come along and wreck all of her carefully laid plans. She had wanted to marry her son to Sarah Churchill, a much more prominent match. On one side of her family she was of English royalty, on the other side she was an heir to the Vanderbilts. Sarah's mother was Consuelo Vanderbilt Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. The extravagant wedding that she had in mind for the pair would've likely rivaled that of a royal wedding. But then along came a spider, or more accurately, Ann. Her curvy figure, alluring face, and tantalizing persona had bewitched Billy thoroughly.

After meeting her son's girlfriend for the first time at the races, Elsie hired a private investigator to look into her background. Billy had made it abundantly clear that day that he had every intention of marrying this woman, much to the dismay of his parents. Before a wedding took place she wanted to learn everything there was to know about the stranger he had brought into their close-knit circle. Within just days she had a full report sitting right in front of her with all she could've ever wanted to know. Somehow the details about her affair with William remained a secret. Even the fact that he had set up the couple's meeting didn't leak into the report. But everything else there was to know about Ann Eden, or Angeline Cromwell, had been exposed.

Elsie learned that Ann's mother had been married and divorced twice and also had several affairs. She was horrified to learn that Ethel had run her own cab company in Kansas City, employing men with criminal backgrounds. When she learned that Ann had not been born in a hospital or even at home, but in a "black box," she was aghast. The 'black box" was a shack behind her family's Pittsburg farm that served as a slaughter house. Though her affair with the senior Woodward wasn't revealed, her job at Fefe's Monte Carlo was. As though it weren't bad enough that her son intended to marry a showgirl, she had also been a member of a traveling acting troupe. During this point in her life, she had an affair with actor Franchot Tone, who was married to Joan Crawford at the time.

Elsie also learned that Ann had recently been seen sporting a flashy new piece of jewelry. She had been shamelessly showing off the thick, gold bracelet that had clearly been made at the turn of the century. Elsie knew exactly what she had been wearing and where it came from. Billy's grand-uncle, the very same uncle who founded the Belair Stud and Farm, had bought that bracelet for Billy's grandmother decades before. It was a family heirloom, and Elsie was enraged that her son would bestow such a gift upon such a woman.

Praying that she could stop the ill-fated wedding, Elsie pulled her son to the side and confronted him with the information she garnered. She revealed everything, even going as far as to disclose what she'd learned about the affair with Franchot Tone. Normally she wouldn't have been so blunt, but with a scandal close at hand she couldn't afford to beat around the bush. Billy wasn't phased at all to learn about her past. He was even impressed by her affair with Joan Crawford's husband. He could hardly believe that he was about to marry a woman that had enticed Joan Crawford's husband into bed. His mother warned him that this was nothing more than a passing attraction forged out of rebellion, not love. Once the ink had dried on the marriage certificate and the attraction passed, he would regret his decision.

Billy had never been one to throw caution to the wind or act rebelliously. This was the very first time he had ever willfully defied his mother. His first taste of insubordination was far too good to not want more. He began spending most of his nights at Ann's studio apartment, relishing the freedom he had craved his entire life. This was his way of breaking with convention and forging his own path in life. He wanted to make his own decisions, rather than let his mother continue to make them for him. Instead of being bound by the duty of family, Billy wanted to pursue his own desires. What he desired was to marry the first woman able to entice him.

Elsie wasn't wrong about her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. When Billy looked at her, he saw freedom, sexuality, and rebellion. When Ann looked at him, she saw financial security and a key to the high society she had always wanted to belong to. With the simple uttering of an 'I do,' she could have all that she ever wanted and more.

In December 1942, as WWII was heating up and American men were being called up to serve their country, Billy enlisted in the Navy. This gave their relationship a much more urgent feeling. The possibility of it being so temporary added a tragic tinge to their time together. Ann would crumble into tears at the prospect of Billy being killed overseas, bringing their courtship to a violent and abrupt end. As she worried herself over the possibility of losing her ticket to the glamorous society she so coveted, Billy prepared for war. He liked the way he looked in his new uniform. Much more like the man he'd always wanted his father to see him as. Deep down, he hoped that enlisting in the Navy would earn his father's respect.

No sooner than Billy was called away to gunnery school in Tacoma, Washington did Ann start conversations about marriage. With him going to Europe with no promise of return, she felt that she needed to belong to him. She just couldn't bear the idea of something happening to him without cementing their love first. He didn't immediately agree, but he couldn't deny the romanticism in heading off to war with a woman waiting for him back home. When he left for Tacoma without slipping a ring on her finger, Ann figured that he would quickly forget about her. Instead, she received a letter from Billy asking whose permission he needed to ask for her hand. She said there was no one, deciding not to tell him about her father in Detroit. She didn't think he would make much of it if he ever found out the whole truth.

Ann had not seen her father since his departure to Michigan in her childhood. Ethel had told her that Jesse-Claude was a dead beat that never offered any help to them. As far as she knew, her father had left her because he wanted to and never aided in her support because he didn't care to.

As Billy was waiting in Tacoma to be shipped out to war, it made perfect sense to have their wedding there. Ann was giddy as a schoolgirl as she packed for her cross-country trip. The blushing bride expressed her excitement to her friends. She was opening a new chapter of her life upon embarking on her journey. One where she would finally be every bit as rich and powerful as she had always wanted to be.

Before she could depart, Elsie invited her for tea. Ann found herself in a parlor, surrounded by her soon-to-be mother-in-law and her daughters. They coolly informed her that they would not be attending the wedding as it was too far away for them to travel. They were even more chilly when they told her that no one would expect them to attend a wartime wedding, anyway. It was quickly made clear that she wasn't summoned to tea out of courtesy. They had brought her in that day to enlighten and advise her. She likely felt as though she were being backed into a corner by her fiance's mother and sisters.

They advised her that she would need to learn how to socialize with a new class of people. The kind of behavior she had previously displayed just wouldn't stand. She was also instructed that her former acquaintances needed to remain in her past. Ann took this to mean that Elsie had found out about her job at Fefe's. Imagine her outrage if she had learned that both her husband and son had been to that club, drinking and flirting with women.

Elsie made clear the disapproval and disdain she held for their marriage when she decided not to publish their announcement in the New York Times as she had done for his sisters. Instead she buried it deep within the pages of the Newport Mercury and Weekly News in the hopes that no one would ever see it. The Woodward family was in agreement that the union would be ill-fated. Though the scandalous wedding seemed to be a good way for Billy to shake off rumors of his homosexuality, everyone thought that his choice of bride would come back to bite him. Though it was assumed by all that the novelty would wear off no sooner than the ring was placed on her finger, the couple actually seemed quite happy in the beginning of their marriage. They were seen dining at well-known restaurants in Tacoma just after their wedding and also New York after Billy's return home. They attended parties together and took short vacations just the two of them.

Ann was already expecting their first child while Billy was away at war. Living in the Woodward home with her disapproving mother-in-law looming overhead, Ann's early experience of marriage mirrored that of Elsie's. One would think that this would make her more sympathetic to her daughter-in-law's situation, but it did not. Rather than try to recall her own discomfort in the same condition, she just looked on critically as Ann tried her hand at different projects she read about. As her belly grew and her ankles swelled, she would move furniture around the house and rearrange plants. Much as she had done when living with her own mother-in-law, Elsie took to shutting herself up in her bedroom with increasing frequency.

Billy's experience in WWII was a harrowing one to say the least. While aboard the USS Liscome Bay on November 24, 1943, the carrier was attacked by a Japanese submarine and taken down. With it an admiral, its captain, 53 officers, and 591 enlisted men also sank to the depths of the sea. Only 272 of the crew managed to survive, with Billy Woodward being one of them. This traumatizing confrontation changed him forever. Before meeting Ann, he had hardly dared to step outside the bounds of convention. Now, he was determined to buck it in every conceivable way possible.

When he returned home from war, Ann was ready to pop with their first son. Swollen, tired, and due at any moment, she hardly looked like the same woman that had enticed him into her bed and out of his closed off comfort zone. Suddenly he started to realize that the life of a husband and father was not what he truly wanted for himself. The novelty had worn off just as his family had predicted. With his lease on life renewed, Billy was ready to fully enjoy his status as a member of the high society and a playboy of its scene. Ann soon found herself relegated to the position of many high society wives. Sitting at home while her husband cheated on her.

It seemed that Billy really could've cared less about his wife or the job his father had given him at the bank. He was far too busy deflecting his responsibilities onto his parents. Even with his first child about to be born, he opted to live as his father had at the start of his marriage. At home with his parents. When the time came, Ann gave birth screaming on the third floor of the Woodward's Manhattan home. She named the baby boy William III, but called him Woody. She would give birth to another son while still living under the Woodwards' roof on January 14, 1948, named James.

Shortly after James's birth Ann decided that she'd had all she could take of living with her in-laws. After firmly putting her foot down, Billy finally bought a five-story brownstone for his family on East Seventy-Third Street. Immediately after making the purchase, he ran away on a sailing trip with his friends. It didn't matter to Ann. She finally had what she had always wanted. A rich husband, two beautiful sons, and a fully-staffed home on the Upper East Side complete with a cook, a maid, and several butlers to see to her every need. All she needed to worry about now was figuring out how to regain the attention and affection of her rich husband so she could effectively hold onto all that she had gained. If she could figure out a way into this world, she could figure out a way to stay.

If their private life was marred by affairs and fights, pictures depict something else entirely. They appeared to be quite the happy couple as they attended parties and mingled with aristocrats. They ate at all the finest restaurants and traveled all over the U.S. and Europe. It was a life that Ann absolutely loved and she had no regrets. When she tired of looking at her Upper East Side brownstone, she could just drive out to her large estate on Long Island's North Shore, in the town of Oyster Bay Cove. She had traded the cold sandwiches she'd eaten everyday at the cab company for caviar. Instead of an oil-stained cot, she now had big, comfortable beds in luxurious bedrooms at both of her homes. Rather than risk cutting her lip on a chipped cup to drink cold coffee, she now sipped expensive champagne from polished crystal glasses.

Ann Eden was a hot topic of gossip around New York's high society. She was not unaware and she found it all quite hypocritical and amusing. It would seem that as hard as William Sr. had tried to keep their previous affair a secret, the secret had leaked into corners of the elite circle. Some of William's closest friends made jokes about how convenient it was that the Woodwards had managed to keep it all in the family. The women also scorned her just as cruelly. She saw these socialites for what they really were. Opportunists just like herself. The only real difference between them was the backgrounds in which they were raised.

Rumors abound about the up-jumped showgirl from Kansas City. The very women whispering about her had also married English lords or oil tycoons for nothing more than financial security. These men already had scores of mistresses before marrying them. They were one and the same with Ann whether they were willing to admit to it or not. In this spiteful world of wealth and jealousy Ann found herself all alone. Everyone kept her at a distance as though her lower station would somehow rub off on them. Not a soul was willing to help her navigate this snake pit of privilege. Instead they stood ready with a snide remark no matter where she went or what she wore.

Ann was changing and her husband wasn't thrilled with the new her. Speaking, etiquette, and French lessons were meant to help her blend into her new surroundings. Billy just saw these lessons turning her into what he hated most. A woman resembling his mother and sisters. He wanted the woman that had shocked and disgusted them when they first announced their engagement. The seductress that had held allure over men with the freedom that she displayed with her body. The woman whose propensity to say whatever came to mind dropped jaws all over the ballroom. Now he was stuck with a debutant learning to fold napkins into animal shapes to impress her dinner guests.

Just as she had immolated her favorite actresses as a child, Ann started imitating everything she saw the socialites of New York doing until she became just another one of them. She copied their style, their posture, and their mannerisms until she got it down perfectly. She had managed to morph into exactly what she needed to be to fit in. Seeing how quickly she pulled off her transformation, Billy began to see just how right his mother may have been about his wife. Everything about her previous behavior suddenly seemed like an act merely crafted to marry her way up.

When the couple attended parties Ann would take the opportunity to try out some of the French she had learned. Sometimes she would talk on subjects like international travel and banking, of which she knew nothing. Billy would seize on these moments to publicly berate and humiliate her. All of the qualities that he once found endearing and attractive he now put her down relentlessly for. Feeling embarrassed and inadequate, she would just cast her gaze to the floor as she apologized and promised to do better.

And do better she did. A speech therapist replaced her Kansas accent with the foreign tone of a much classier woman. A tutor briefed her on all the topics she would need to know about to make conversation with Billy's friends and family. She devoured books on English and American antiques, learning the differences between the two and which pieces were most prized by collectors. As her French improved she found a love for the language. She also took to reading cookbooks, taking out recipes and adding them to her notebook alongside etiquette advice she'd taken down. She had learned which forks and spoons to use when at a meal and the many different ways to fold a napkin. Though she had been clearly instructed to learn more about how to blend in and socialize in her new surroundings, she was constantly criticized for doing so.

For all of her changes, Ann never could relinquish her love of flashy, attractive dresses. The clingy, revealing outfits that she wore grabbed the attention of all of Billy's friends, infuriating him. Though it had originally been her style that attracted him to her, now he detested it and the way his friends looked at her. He didn't like the fact that she was changing her ways, but couldn't stand that she wasn't changing her dress, too. She just couldn't seem to please him, or anyone, no matter how hard she tried. When she would try to have a conversation with a friend of his at a party, he would loudly demand that she stop flirting like a hooker. Stung by these frequent outbursts, she would promise to subdue her personality and find more flattering outfits for her figure.

The couple became just as known for their public arguments as Ann was known for her stunning dresses. Fighting at parties in front of friends became an ugly habit for the two of them. It didn't take too long before Billy's friends saw just what his family had seen. That he was heavily regretting his decision to marry a Kansas City showgirl. The marriage was faltering and Billy had lost interest in his wife no sooner than he came home from war. He had no concern for his job at the bank and no regard for his duties as a father. Everyone was just sitting back waiting for the pair to hire divorce lawyers and divide possessions.

Rather than tend to his responsibilities at work, or spend time with his family at home, Billy went out drinking with his old friend, Bean Baker. While his nights were spent drunkenly screwing around with other women, his days were spent sleeping it off. He would lay in bed until noon everyday before getting up and starting the party all over again. When Ann would raise an issue with his running around, he would just buy her off with expensive jewelry and property. Regardless of how much money he threw at the problem, the arguments grew more frequent and more heated.

Ann didn't know what to do. Before, her sexual expertise had been all she needed to keep her husband in line. Now things were different. He was out finding younger, more attractive and interesting women that were likely teaching him things she knew nothing of. Ann's tricks were old news and he had moved on to fresher meat.

As Billy grew further apart from his significant other, he began to see his relationship with her as exactly what his mother had said it was. A torrid, lustful affair committed out of the internal struggle of rebellion. Elsie had warned him that it should remain just that, an affair that he could easily put an end to. But he hadn't heeded his mother's warnings and now he was paying the price. Ending it with her now would be a very messy, public affair that would cost him more than he was willing to part with.

Throughout the 1940s and into the early 1950s, Billy became known as a bit of a player. All the while Ann was drowning in her new life. As much as she loved the extravagance of it all, she hated the loneliness. Things between husband and wife only further deteriorated as time trudged forward. With so much more to get into, this seems to be a good place to leave off for Part 2. Affairs are held on both sides, private detectives are hired to snoop, and drugs become a dangerous part of the situation. Truman Capote even manages to worm his way right into the middle of Ann Woodward's story, holding a grudge against her. Please look out for Part 2 and check out Roseanne Montillo's book, Deliberate Cruelty.

1 view0 comments
bottom of page