Most of the debutatnes went on to attend one of the Seven Sisters. The Seven Sisters were seven women's colleges that were allied with the Ivy League. Alot of these events were antiSemitic. Education was not that important in the 1950s. I expect it would be today. Women used to mourn that their daughters would not be debutantes. Most ran off to join SDS or something during the Viet Nam War. It was considered an ancient, biased custom. Some years in NY, there was not a single ball. I read more and more in Town and Country and the New York Times that these events are coming back in a big way.
They don't bow! Curtsey!!! There are different types of curtesies. The hardest one is when you are presented to the Queen of England. American parents sent their daughters over to London months before the ceremony to learn the proper curtesy. People made money by teaching classes. It involves a lot of poise and grace.
Yes, to be respected for your education and savviness! I know what you mean all to well. These parties were dated. If you strip them of their bias and a few other items, they can be great events.
I attended two churches that were known as "Society" churches. Even today, there is a difference from a regular church. The women wear expensive clothes and hats. They were always nice to me. Of course, maybe not if their son wanted to marry me, a commoner.