Millicent Veronica Willson (1882 - 1974) MP

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Occupation: Vaudevillian
Managed by: Sara Mastriforte
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About Millicent Veronica Willson

Millicent Hearst (née Willson) was the wife of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Willson was a vaudeville performer in New York City whom Hearst admired, and they married in 1903. The couple had five sons, but began to drift apart in the mid-1920s, when Millicent tired of her husband's longtime affair with the actress Marion Davies.

Following in the footsteps of their father, a moderately successful vaudevillian, Millicent and her older sister Anita performed on the stage in 1897 as “bicycle girls” in Edward Rice’s The Girl from Paris at the Herald Square Theater on Broadway. The 16 year-old beauty caught the eye of the 34 year-old Hearst, a lonely bachelor and notorious stage-door Johnny at the time.

The couple’s first dates were chaperoned by her sister Anita. And after a lengthy courtship, on April 28, 1903, the controversial publisher and aspiring politician William Randolph Hearst, married 22 year-old Millicent Willson.

Millicent gave birth to five sons: Born just 5 days after the Hearsts' 1st wedding anniversary, George Randolph Hearst, born in April 23, 1904; William Randolph Hearst, Jr., born in January 27, 1908; John Randolph Hearst, born in 1910; and the twins, Randolph Apperson Hearst and David Whitmire (née Elbert Willson) Hearst, born in December 2, 1915. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the very proper mother of William Randolph Hearst, was initially dismayed by Millicent’s humble origins, but with the birth of the grandchildren she soon warmed to her daughter-in-law.

Although they remained legally married until Hearst's death in 1951, Millicent established a separate life in New York as a prominent socialite and philanthropist, and only rarely visited her husband at his estate in California, often referred to as "Hearst Castle".

Her social activism flowered during World War I when she was appointed by Mayor John Hylan as Chairman of the Mayor’s Committee of Women on National Defense. The committee sponsored entertainments for servicemen, operated a canteen, encouraged enlistments, sponsored patriotic rallies and provided staples such as coal, milk, and ice to the needy. Millicent Hearst also served on wartime committees to raise funds for the rebuilding of France and the relief of French orphans.

Millicent Hearst is most distinguished for founding the Free Milk Fund for Babies in 1921. The fund provided free milk to the poor of New York City for decades. The Milk Fund sponsored many fund raising activities such as rodeos and boxing matches. Mrs. William Randolph Hearst hosted charitable fund raisers for a variety of causes including crippled children, unemployed girls, the New York Women’s Trade League, the Democratic National Committee, the Evening Journal - New York Journal Christmas Fund, and the Village Welfare of Port Washington. During the Depression Eleanor Roosevelt joined Millicent Hearst at many of these charitable events.

Millicent Willson Hearst, generous philanthropist and devoted mother, died on December 5, 1974, more than two decades after the death of her husband, William Randolph Hearst. She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. She was 92.

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Millicent Willson's Timeline

1882
July 16, 1882
1904
April 23, 1904
Age 21
1908
January 27, 1908
Age 25
1910
1910
Age 27
1915
December 2, 1915
Age 33
December 2, 1915
Age 33
1974
December 5, 1974
Age 92
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Bronx, NY, USA