Joan Chatfield-Taylor was a former member of the
Board of Trustees for the French American International
School, and also the mother of Christina (‘89) and
Matthew (‘96) Henry de Tessan. Following are excerpts
from the obituary by Nellie Bowles that ran in the
San Francisco Chronicle on October 29, 2012.
Joan Chatfield-Taylor, a pioneer fashion editor at The Chronicle who introduced a lighthearted touch to haute couture writing during the city’s most tumultuous anti-establishment decades, died October 19 of breast cancer. She was 71. The debutante daughter of a well-known San Francisco family, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor wrote four books and
a sarcastic, erudite and playful column in The Chronicle
for 18 years, mostly during the 1960s and 1970s.
“She straddled the line between worlds,” said longtime
Chronicle Datebook editor Ruthe Stein, who worked
alongside Ms. Chatfield-Taylor. “She managed to be part
of San Francisco’s storied high society while also helping
bring our section, (the former) Women’s World, out of the
A frequent figure in the social columns, Ms. Chatfield-
Taylor was an independent and popular woman, often
startling high-society matrons. In the 1960s, she covered
the opening of the opera while nine months pregnant,
considered scandalous at the time.
“She was very traditional in some ways but surprising
in others,” recalled her son, Matthew Henry de Tessan, a
lawyer living in Denver. “When she and my father split,
she was suddenly raising me, an 8-year-old boy, all on her
own. She didn’t know what to do, so she taught herself
about baseball and became this huge Giants fan, took me
to all their games, fell in love with it for me.”
Ms. Chatfield-Taylor, who attended Katherine Delmar
Burke School and Smith College, started at The Chronicle
in 1962 as a library assistant. She quickly carved out a job
for herself as one of the paper’s first full-time fashion writ-
ers, often sending dispatches in from Paris and Rome.
Joan Chatfield-Taylor (center) chats with her daughter Christina Henry de Tessan,
Class of ‘89, and former Head of School Bernard Ivaldi, at the 50th Anniversary
Alumni Authors Reception, February 10, 2012.