Excerpt from The Unfit Heiress by Audrey Farley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Unfit Heiress

The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt

by Audrey Farley

The Unfit Heiress by Audrey Farley X
The Unfit Heiress by Audrey Farley
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  • Published:
    Apr 2021, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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Print Excerpt

According to Ann, her mother promised many gifts that she never received—a rocking horse, a dollhouse, a baby pram. This was despite the fact that Maryon often made money from gambling with her daughter's inheritance. "I always woke up when she came back to the suite, usually around two or three in the morning. If she'd done well, she'd turn on all the lights and begin to count her money, saying how clever she was."

"And if she lost?" Ann's attorney asked for the benefit of reporters. "What then?"

"Then she would be very angry. She'd turn over the furniture and break things. She once called her broker in the middle of the night and threatened to kill him if he didn't make better trades. Mother always assumed he made bad deals to spite her. She suspected many people in her life of conspiring against her."

In connection with her civil suit, Ann had demanded a full accounting of her mother's spending for the last ten years. Though this accounting had not yet been produced, her attorney indicated that the court would be appalled by the handling of the money bequeathed to her from the Cooper family trust.

Tyler explained to the reporters present that a lawsuit was his client's only recourse—and that lawsuit needed to be filed hastily. The statute of limitations for filing a complaint related to malpractice was one year.

The reporters peppered the attorney with questions. When these ended, Ann powdered her nose and readied herself for the cameramen again. She endured over one hundred flashes of light, prompting one photographer to observe that she couldn't be feebleminded—she didn't have a fit. A few approached to say how awfully sorry they were about what happened. One told her she had really lovely blue eyes. Another gave her his card, in case she wanted to talk off the record.

Ann went home feeling satisfied. After months of fretting, she'd finally told her story, and people were horrified to learn what she'd endured. It was plain to them that Maryon, not she, was the one unfit to be a mother. Ann figured it wouldn't be long before Maryon agreed to settle the lawsuit, allowing her to move on with her life.

The heiress had no idea that her mother would respond by telling the court—and the world—about Ann's own private life, saying Ann had given her no choice. Nor did she have a clue how dramatically her lawsuit would change her life and those of untold numbers of women for decades to come. What seemed to her a personal matter to be settled by the courts would spark a nationwide debate on the changing nature of womanhood, the purpose of sexuality, and the merits of allowing doctors to decide who did and didn't reproduce.

Excerpted from The Unfit Heiress by Audrey Farley. Copyright © 2021 by Audrey Farley. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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