Co-founder of Legion of Honor museum.
Alma de Bretteville Spreckels is remembered in San Francisco as a famous patron of the arts, but her first step into the art world was in front of the canvas – she worked as a nude model for art classes. One of the highlights of her career was modeling as the “Goddess of Victory” for Dewey Monument.
That statue made her immortal in the city and can still be seen in Union Square.
It was also the turning point in her personal life: in the unveiling, she met Adolph Spreckels, whom she later married and had kids with.
She was born with the long name Alma Charlotte Corday le Normand de Bretteville to a family of Danish immigrants. To help her business-owner mother to provide for the family, Alma started working full time at her shop at the age of 14.
The marriage to Spreckels transformed her financial and social status. She used her wealth for charity and philanthropic initiatives.
She also continued developing her love for the arts. On a trip to Paris, she met the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, got 13 of his sculptures and started her art collection.
“I’d rather be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- She coined the term “sugar daddy” for her first husband Adolph Spreckels, who was the head of a sugar company, and 24 years older than her.
- She was nicknamed Big Alma for her unusual height of six feet.
- She became famous when she sued her boyfriend for not marrying her and won.
- The mansion where she lived was later owned by author Danielle Steel.
- She assisted with the foundation of San Francisco’s Maritime Museum.
- She and her husband donated The California Palace of the Legion of Honor to SF; Today it is a museum.