Angel Dorothy

How an American Progressive Came to Devon

Publisher: Unbound
Dorothy is the inspiring biography of a formidable woman: wealthy American heiress Dorothy Elmhirst, who poured her considerable resources into founding Dartington Hall in 1925. What started as a progressive school rapidly transformed into a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians, creating an exceptional centre for British cultural life. It was at Dartington in Devon that the Labour Party’s post-war manifesto was written and the Arts Council was conceived.

Born in Washington, DC , into the influential Whitney family, Dorothy was a national darling: bells rang, flags flew and the American Navy’s new fast tugboat was named Dorothy. Orphaned at seventeen, she started giving away her inheritance at eighteen and buried herself in social and political work. She maintained her status as an unmarried woman until she fell in love with and married her first husband, Willard Straight, in 1911.

Following Willard’s untimely death, Dorothy worked herself into a breakdown trying to fulfil his wishes. She recovered with the help of Leonard Elmhirst, an Englishman who shared her liberal beliefs; they married and moved to England in 1925 to start what would become Dartington Hall.

In this vividly told biography, Jane Brown follows Dorothy from one side of the Atlantic to the other, a journey Dorothy made one hundred times to spread her political beliefs, her passion for education and her support of the arts for all. She traces the evolution of Dartington, from its restoration to its farming and forestry projects, and to its time as a home for the period’s greatest artists and intellectuals.