On this day in history : 17th February 1905 – The birth of American born English socialite Ruth Baldwin ~ lover of the powerboat racer ‘Joe’ Carstairs and part of ‘The Bright Young Things’ set….

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Ruth Baldwin – Public domain

‘The Bright Young Things’, given their name by the English Tabloid Press were a bohemian group of aristocrats and socialites during the 1920s…. The Press loved them as they provided plenty of stories to cover, with their hard-partying and social events…. Some indulged in heavy drinking and drug taking – not least Ruth Baldwin, who was well-known for her use of heroin, cocaine and alcohol…. Her lover, ‘Joe’ Carstairs described her as ‘wild’ – but said that she was ‘such fun’….

Marion Barbara ‘Joe’ Carstairs was an extremely wealthy woman – who usually dressed as a man, had tattoos upon her arms and had a love of machines, adventure and speed….

Joe was an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross in France during World War 1…. In January 1918 she married childhood friend, aristocrat Count Jacques de Pret, in Paris – purely to gain access to her inheritance…. Joe was openly a lesbian – having numerous affairs, including with Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly Wilde and actresses Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead…. After her mother’s death the marriage was annulled on the grounds of non-consummation and in 1922 Joe changed her name back to Carstairs….

Joe and Ruth became lovers and began living together…. Between 1925 and 1930 Joe became a very successful powerboat racer – winning trophies such as the Duke of York Trophy in 1926, the Royal Motor Yacht Club International Race and the Daily Telegraph Cup…. When Joe bought her first powerboat Ruth gave her a Steiff doll, which Joe called Lord Tod Wadley and to which she became very attached, keeping it close by for the rest of her days…. She even had clothes made for it at Saville Row and its name added to her own on the address plaque at the door of her London apartment….

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Joe holding Lord Tod Wadley – Fair use

Joe was always known for her generosity – and was keen for others to succeed…. She was close friends with several other racing drivers, including land speed record competitors…. She gave $10,000 to Sir Malcolm Campbell to fund one of his Blue Bird cars and was as equally generous to others such as John Cobb – who’s Railton Special was powered by the engines from her motorboat Estelle V….

In 1934 Joe bought Whale Cay, an island in the Bahamas – it was here that she entertained the likes of Marlene Dietrich and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor…. She built a luxurious house for herself and her guests….plus a school, church, lighthouse and a cannery for the people of the island…. She created an agricultural enterprise employing hundreds of local people and built accommodation for them…. Later she also bought the neighbouring islands of Bird Cay, Cat Cay, Devil’s Cay and half of Hoffman’s Cay….

Joe was on Whale Cay when she received the news that Ruth had died…. On the 31st of August 1937 Ruth had attended a party at the Chelsea home of Gwen Farrar – where she had accidentally overdosed…. Joe returned to Britain onboard the French liner ‘Normandie’ – the most expensive ship in the world at the time…. She collected Ruth’s ashes and took them back with her to Whale Cay – where they were housed within the church…. In 1975, when she sold Whale Cay and moved to Miami, Florida, Joe took Ruth’s ashes with her….

Joe died on the 18th of December 1993 at the age of 93…. Lord Tod Wadley was cremated with her – and her ashes were buried with Ruth’s at Oakland Cemetery, Sag Harbor, New York….

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Miss Marion Carstairs circa 1928/29 – Photograph : Arnold Genthe – Public domain

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