Ava Alice Lowle Willing

Brief Life History of Ava Alice Lowle

Ava Lowle Willing (September 15, 1868 – June 9, 1958) was an American socialite. She was the first wife of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV and later married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale. Ava Lowle Willing was born on September 15, 1868 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Edward Shippen Willing (1822-1906) and Alice Bell Barton (1833-1903). She had three elder siblings: (1) Susan Ridgway Willing (1862-1940) who married on November 3, 1899, Francis Cooper Lawrence Jr. (1858-1904), they had no issue; (2) John Rhea Barton Willing (1864-1913) he died from pneumonia unmarried with no issue; and (3) Edward Shippen Willing Jr. (1867-1873) he died at age six. Ava has been a Main Line Philadelphia debutante, the belle of the Newport season in 1890 and declared bride of the year when she married Colonel John Jacob "Jack" Astor IV (1864–1912) in 1891. He was the son of William Backhouse Astor, Jr. (1829–1892) and Caroline Webster "Lina" Schermerhorn (1830–1908), at her parents mansion at 510 South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They went on a 5-week honeymoon in Europe. The newlywed couple was given, among many lavish gifts, a furnished townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Though the marriage was tumultuous, the Astors had two children: William Vincent Astor (November 15, 1891 – February 3, 1959) Ava Alice Muriel Astor (July 7, 1902 – July 19, 1956) The family lived in their New York townhouse at 840 Fifth Avenue, their 2,000 acre country estate, Ferncliff in Rhinebeck, New York, and Beechwood, their Newport, Rhode Island mansion. By 1896, Mrs. Ava Astor had become socially active in England. She had a country estate, Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey, and a townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London. In 1909, after returning from England, Ava sued Jack for divorce on November 19, and four months later on March 5, 1910 the State of New York decreed in her favor. She received a $10 million (equivalent to $257,036,000 in 2016) settlement. Their son lived with his father before leaving to attend Harvard University. While Ava got custody of their seven-year-old daughter. While Vincent was in his second year at Harvard, Jack was on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, and became one of the casualties while returning from his honeymoon with his new bride, Madeleine Talmage Force. This event left young Vincent as one of the wealthiest men in the United States. In September 1911, Ava and her daughter moved to England. They lived in her townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London (from October-April) and her country estate, Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey (from May-September). On June 3, 1919, Ava married Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale at St Mary's, Bryanston Square in London and she was known as Lady Ribblesdale. Lister died six years later on October 21, 1925 at their townhouse on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London. They had no children together and after Baron Ribblesdale's death, she did not remarry. He was buried in the Lister vault at St Mary the Virgin Churchyard in Gisburn, Lancashire. In June 1940, she returned to the United States on the liner USS Roosevelt as a war refugee, reclaimed her American citizenship, and became known as Mrs. Ava Willing Ribblesdale. On June 9, 1958, Ava died in her apartment at 720 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York and she was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery. She left a token bequest of $25,000 to her son, Vincent, but the bulk of her $3,000,000 estate was left to her daughter Alice's four children: Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky, Princess Sylvia Sergeyevna Obolensky Guirey, Romana von Hofmannsthal McEwen, and Emily Edwina Harding.

Photos and Memories (12)

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Family Time Line

John Jacob Astor IV, Perished on the Titanic
1864–1912
Ava Alice Lowle Willing
1868–1958
Marriage: 17 February 1891
William Vincent Astor
1891–1959
Infant male Astor
1896–1896
Alice Ava Muriel Astor
1902–1956

Sources (21)

  • Eva Willing in household of Susan R Barton, "United States Census, 1880"
  • Ada Willing, "Virginia, Births and Christenings, 1853-1917"
  • Ava L Willing, "Pennsylvania Civil Marriages, 1677-1950"

World Events (8)

1870 · The Fifteenth Amendment

Prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It was the last of the Reconstruction Amendments.

1877 · First National Strike in U.S. Begins In Pittsburgh Against Pennsylvania Railroad

Coming out of an economic crisis, everyone was worried when cuts started happening in the railroad. They went on what would the great railroad strike of 1877.

1895 · College Hall Catches on Fire

On January 27, 1895, College Hall catches on fire and is fully consumed within one hour. During the fire, many students and faculty work together to save many of the items in the building. Some of these are library books. They save the books by piling them onto the rugs and dragging them out of the burning building. College Hall is then later rebuilt and renamed Davis Hall after Governor John W. Davis.

Name Meaning

German: patronymic from Wille .

German: habitational name from any of several places in Bavaria named Willing or places in Hesse and near Soltau named Willingen.

English: habitational name from Willing in Rattery (Devon). The placename appears to derive from Old English willen, weak plural form of willa, wella ‘well, spring, stream’.

Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.

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Heiress, Socialite, Born in Newport Rhode Island, to Edward Shippen Willing and his wife, the former Alice Barton. She had two siblings, Susan Ridgway Willing and John Rhea Barton Willing. She was a d …

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