Shelved Dolls: Lillie Mae Faulk – The Real Holly Golightly

Lillie Mae Faulk (left) and friend

Lillie Mae Faulk – much like Lula Mae Barnes – was a beautiful Southern orphan (seen here in the headscarf), and God, she hated the country. Unlike Breakfast at Tiffany’s readers, she was not charmed by the fact that she was a southern orphan being sort-of, kind-of raised by her Aunt Jennie. Presumably, like Holly, she spent her youth in the South running through briar patches and stealing chicken eggs – but all she wanted to do was move to New York. Andreas Brown, a literary archivist claims:

“Lillie Mae Faulk was said to be a great Southern beauty. Not in the sense that we consider great beauties today [Ed note: I think this is an incredibly bitchy comment on Andreas Brown's part] but at that time she was considered a very attractive and charming woman. By all accounts the prettiest girl thereabouts, just an inch or so about five feet, dark blond hair, barely sixteen, but today what we might refer to as a bubblehead. She certainly was irresponsible, childlike, a case of arrested development in the sense that she pursued adolescent values well into her thirties. She married the first fellow who came along who had any money.”

That fellow was Arch Persons. He came from a good family and wooed her with a sports-car, which he said he could use to drive her to every city she wanted to go to. And oh, Lillie Mae was on it. They married after a few weeks – and then Arch ran out of money on their honeymoon. Completely. He was actually broke. They were forced to return to the small town of Monroesville. In many ways, it sounds similar to Holly’s marriage at 14 to Doc Golightly, except that Arch turned out to be a con man.

As soon as Lillie Mae realized this she tried to get a divorce – only to find out that she was pregnant. She told everyone she wanted an abortion, but was never able to follow through with it – in large part because Jennie Faulk, the aunt who had raised her convinced her not to. She returned to Arch. He promised he was going to get rich and move to New York.

To that end, he started attempting a series of get-rich-quick schemes which took him around the country. The couple lived in hotel rooms for the next five years. Desperate to find a way to get out her marriage, Lillie began taking a series of lovers. Truman claimed later that his earliest memory as a baby had been his mother having a series of assignations with men in hotel rooms.

And then she left to move to New York.

Share This Post:
    • Amy

      Fascinating story! Thanks so much for sharing

    • Caitlin

      Yes, this is great! Super interesting. Excellent work and thanks for posting

    • Samantha

      I love this column so much.
      This might be my favorite yet – it almost brought me to tears.

    • Nancy

      What they said! Keep them coming!

    • Erin

      Thank you for the Shelved Dolls articles. They are lovely.

    • Jaclyn

      Very well done. These pieces are fantastic and each one is more fascinating than the last.

    • Lindsey

      You should put these into a book and sell people the book.

    • Cate

      I agree with the stuff everyone else is saying. I love this series.

      • Jennifer Wright

        AW YOU GUYS!

        I think next week might be Evelyn Nesbit. She is saucy. Also, I need to find someone whose life isn’t incredibly sad. Which is not Evelyn Nesbit. I mean, she’s pretty sad.

    • Robin

      You know, for the longest time, I sort of assumed that Truman Capote had intended Holly Golightly to be a female version of himself (given how others who knew him, such as Harper Lee, had seemed to describe him). I don’t really have time to read past the first page at the moment, but I look forward to reading the rest of your case soon!

    • diane kaston

      thank you thank you, this just blew me away, see you at tiffany’s

    • Kate

      Just had to jump on the “God-this-series-is-fantastic-please-never-stop-writing-it!!” bandwagon. Great writing, fascinating subjects… I’m always so excited to see a new Shelved Doll article. So, please, keep it up!

    • Rod

      “In 1931, when Truman was 8, Lillie married a successful South American businessman Joe Capote (Joe, not Jose, the successful South American Holly wanted to marry in Breakfast at Tiffany’s)”

      But Joe is short for Joseph, isn’t it? That is, José in Spanish (and Joe was Cuban).

    • An Okie

      Loved the piece. But I have one thing. It’s Okie, not Oakie. We’re not made of wood.

    • Luisa

      Wonderful piece! I did have an issue with one tiny bit-Cuba is NOT in South America.