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White Collar Wives

© Lauren Greenfield

When white collar husbands are incarcerated for fraud, it’s the bejeweled wives that are left behind to tend the hearth, stem the society gossip, resuscitate the million dollar bank accounts, and inoculate the children from shame as they’re exiled from exclusive social circles. Gathering their expensive skirts and family reins, the wives have to start new chapters.
Three of these women reflect on their experiences in different ways. After her husband was accused of illegally funneling $45, 000 to the George W. Bush campaign, attorney Bernadette Noe, 48, now immerses herself in a pool of resignation and Key Largo emerald water. Following an initial spell of mourning for her society page status and stability, she recomposed. She forgave her husband — until he confessed to an extramarital affair. At that point, rage gave way to amusement, and Noe declared herself the “patron saint of prison wives.”

Karen Weinreb, 41, a former editor and alumna of Yale and Oxford, emerged defiant and autonomous from her husband’s scandal. He pled guilty to fraud and impersonation charges, in service to their expensive lifestyles. After a fruitless attempt to reingratiate herself with the “gilded marionettes” of New York society, she extracted herself and her children, and moved to rural Connecticut. Discarding her wedding band, she fumed and furied at her husband, then reached an emotional stasis. She wrote a semi-autobiographical novel that padded her bank account with six figures. When her husband was released, they made amends, but agreed to divorce amicably: “I don’t need a man. I’m in control now.”

For Amy Shelton, 51, the situation still draws tears. She mourns the end of her “fairy tale, charmed life” and maintains her husband’s innocence. Two years into her husband’s prison sentence, Shelton still searches trial documents for evidence to exonerate him. She visits him every other week, with an almost pious remembrance for the life she used to know, before being shunned by her community and evicted from her country club.

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