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Edith Rockefeller supported James Joyce with a monthly benefaction whilst writing Ulysses

Edith Rockefeller McCormick (August 31, 1872 – August 25, 1932) was an American socialite and the daughter of John D. Rockefeller, co-founder of Standard Oil. She played a prominent role in Chicago society, supporting various causes, including the city’s first opera company. Edith’s marriage to Harold Fowler McCormick, son of the inventor of the mechanical reaper, further elevated her status. Together, they were influential patrons of the arts and culture.

Edith’s life was marked by both extravagance and intellectual pursuits. She had a stormy relationship with her father due to her penchant for extravagance clashing with his frugality. Despite not attending finishing school, she received a private education at home. After her marriage, she and Harold built a magnificent mansion named Villa Turicum in Lake Forest, Illinois, overlooking Lake Michigan. Edith’s interests extended beyond social events; she studied astrology, reincarnation, and became a successful Jungian psychoanalyst after being treated by Carl Jung himself. Her legacy includes supporting women’s achievements through organizing “Women’s World Fairs” in the 1920s.

Edith had an intriguing connection with James Joyce. From February 1918 until October 1919, whilst they both lived in Zurich, she provided Joyce with a monthly benefaction of 1,000 Swiss Franks so that Joyce could afford to continue to work on Ulysses.

Edith was in Zurich studying to become a Jungian psychoanalyst; her husband, Harold, on the other hand was pursuing an affair with an opera star.

It’s fascinating to think about the intersection of these two influential figures from different worlds—Joyce’s literary genius and Edith’s philanthropic spirit—during a pivotal time in literary history.


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