Little Edie’s Love of Animals Reveals the Brighter Side of Life at Grey Gardens
Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale gained lasting fame through a 1970’s documentary and most recently a Broadway musical entitled Grey Gardens. The productions depict her eccentric lifestyle and close relationship with her mother Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale. Both lived together isolated in their decaying 28-room East Hampton mansion known as Grey Gardens for decades. They were born into Bouvier aristocracy and were the first cousin and aunt of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. After their family fortune dwindled due to the financial crash of 1929, they both permanently resided at Grey Gardens. Little Edie dreamed of becoming a famous dancer while taking care of her mother, and Big Edie fantasized of singing on the big stage while keeping her daughter close by her side. Little Edie sold Grey Gardens in 1979 after Big Edie died.
But who really was Little Edie and what made her soul waltz? Eva Marie Beale, who is married to Bouvier Beale, (the nephew of Little Edie and the oldest grandson of Big Edie) has the inside family story on the real Little Edie. Eva Marie Beale created a picture book on Grey Gardens, released this fall entitled Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures, published by Verlhac Editions.
When Little Edie died in 2002 she left her scrapbooks, diaries, journals and photographs for her family to enjoy and share her collection of works. Eva Marie Beale says of Little Edie, “The principle focus of my book is to celebrate the life and works of Edith Bouvier Beale as a poet, author, and designer. Our intentions as her family are to genuinely portray Little Edie as the sensitive, loving, and witty woman that we remember her to have been. Although Little and Big Edie Beale were thrust into the public’s fascinated and scrutinizing view following the release of the critically acclaimed documentary Grey Gardens, the true story of Little Edie’s life has essentially remained a mystery since the mid 1950’s. My hope is that this publication will both provide some answers to unanswered questions, serve as a compliment to the famous documentary, and also foster a deeper appreciation for Little Edie as the creative individual she was. We hope that through her writings and photographs we will not only restore her dignity, but also make known her sensitivity, passion, and genius that we, as her family, remember vividly.”
Throughout Little Edie’s life she had a great love of animals, from the time of her youth until she passed. Grey Gardens was notorious for housing countless cats, dogs and even several raccoons. Eva Marie Beale elaborates, “Little Edie was a devoted pet lover from an astonishingly young age. Early childhood pictures show Edie walking along the New Jersey boardwalk with her pet cat, while her dog, Spot, made regular appearances in family photo albums, frequently pictured with Edie in the yard of Grey Gardens. Her childhood journals and scrapbooks are sprinkled with poems of animal adoration, sketches of cats and dogs, and various pictures of her holding and cuddling her various pets. As reflected in her childhood poetry, Edie maintained a deep appreciation for the simplicity of animal’s lives, and on many occasions commented that humans should learn from the innately loyal, peaceful, and affectionate nature of animals.”
“Little Edie” went from living as an aristocrat to being a passionate artist, inspiring a personal world that only she could have created, one that always included the solace of animals. She lived her life free of schedule, without even owning a clock, a metaphor perhaps confirming that Little Edie’s legacy will remain timeless and true. For more information visit: edithbouvierbealeofgreygardens.com.