Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman

Overview

She has been called the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman." She exists as both a fictional character and as a flesh-and-blood human being. But who is she, really? Why do women become mistresses, and what is it like to have a private life that is usually also a secret life? Is a mistress merely a wife-in-waiting, or is she the ver y definition of the emancipated, independent female? Elizabeth Abbott intelligently examines the motives and morals of some of history's most infamous and fascinating...

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Overview

She has been called the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman." She exists as both a fictional character and as a flesh-and-blood human being. But who is she, really? Why do women become mistresses, and what is it like to have a private life that is usually also a secret life? Is a mistress merely a wife-in-waiting, or is she the ver y definition of the emancipated, independent female? Elizabeth Abbott intelligently examines the motives and morals of some of history's most infamous and fascinating women, from antiquity to today. Drawing intimate portraits of those who have—by chance, coercion, or choice—assumed this complex role, Mistresses offers a rich blend of personal biography and cultural insight.

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Editorial Reviews

Ms. Magazine

"Abbott's tour of sensational love affairs provides juicy details and intelligent commentary on some of history's most marginalized women."

Kirkus Reviews

A lively and nuanced look at gender roles as they have been revealed by the lives of concubines and mistresses over the centuries.

Abbott (A History of Marriage, 2011, etc.) a former Dean of Women at the University of Toronto and now a research associate, begins this romp through history with a quip by British multi-billionaire Sir Jimmy Goldsmith, who said, "when a man marries his mistress he creates an automatic job vacancy." The book has the irresistible fascination of celebrity gossip—the author tells the story of Alice Keppel's affair as one of the mistresses of the famous womanizer King Edward VII, and the romance of her great-granddaughter Camilla Parker Bowles, now married to the current Prince of Wales—but it reveals far more than the foibles of the rich and famous. Abbott writes about the vulnerability of women in out-of-wedlock situations, beginning with the biblical story of Hagar, the bondwoman of Sarah, whom she calls "the first concubine to be named in recorded history." The author relates this to the situation of Chinese concubines, who, as recently as the 20th century, were brought into families as lower-status second wives to provide male heirs. Abbott also looks at the abuse faced by female black slaves and Jewish women in Nazi death camps, and how the institution of marriage has often fostered out-of-wedlock relationships in which women were vulnerable even when they were willing partners. This was the case for the celebrated novelist Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot), who suffered social opprobrium for living in a common-law arrangement with her married lover George Lewes, whose wife had refused to divorce him. In the chapter "Mistresses as Trophy Dolls," Abbott delves into the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe after she was discarded by JFK, as well as the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Full of fascinating details and illuminating insights.

Bookslut
Refreshingly liberated from moral probity or censoriousness. Abbott’s perspective, that of a seasoned, unbiased cultural historian, shines through this informed genealogy.
-Bookslut

"Refreshingly liberated from moral probity or censoriousness. Abbott’s perspective, that of a seasoned, unbiased cultural historian, shines through this informed genealogy."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590204436
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,423,096
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Elizabeth Abbott is Research Associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto, and, from 1991 to 2004, was Dean of Women. She is the author of several books, including Sugar and Haiti, also published by Overlook.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note xii

Introduction

Meeting Mistresses xiii

Chapter 1 Love Out of Wedlock in the Ancient World 10

Hagar 11

Aspasia 13

Corinna 19

Dolorosa 28

Chapter 2 Eastern Concubines and Harems 34

Concubines in China 34

Yu-fang 38

May-ying 39

Concubines in Japan 44

Lady Nijo 46

Geisha Mistresses 48

Harem Concubines 53

Roxelana 53

Tz'u-hsi 59

Chapter 3 Whose Whore? Europe's Royal Mistresses 71

Nell Gwynne 72

Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour 77

Jeanne du Barry 83

Lola Montez 88

Katharina Schratt 91

Alice Keppel 96

Elena Lupescu 99

Camilla Parker-Bowles 106

Chapter 4 Marital Arrangements in Aristocratic Circles 115

Lady Bess Foster and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 115

Lady Caroline Lamb 123

Claire Clairmont 130

Countess Teresa Guiccioli 135

Chapter 5 The Clandestine Consorts of (Un) Celibate Clerics 144

The Priest's "Housekeeper" 147

Papal Mistresses 153

Theodora and Marozia Theophylact 153

Vanozza d'Arignano and Giulia Farnese 156

The Modern Clerical Mistress 161

Annie Murphy 164

Louise Iusewicz 169

Pamela Shoop 172

Chapter 6 Conquerors and Their Mistresses 176

Spanish Conquistadors and Native Women I76

Malinche 176

"Country Wives" in Colonial America 183

Sally Fidler, Betsey Sinclair and Margaret Taylor 187

Mistresses in Conquered Asia 190

Le Ly Hayslip and Dao Thi Mui 191

Chapter 7 Interracial Sexual Unions Within the "Peculiar Institution" 195

Phibbah 197

Julia Chinn 202

Sally Hemings 204

Julia Frances Lewis Dickson 208

Harriet Jacobs 215

Chapter 8 Sexual Unions and the Jewish Question 225

Concentration Camp Life Before Death 227

Eleanore Hodys 234

"Partisan" Forest Camps 236

Eva Braun: Mistress to the Author of the Shoah 238

Jew and Gentile, Beyond the Camps 249

Hannah Arendt 249

Chapter 9 Mistresses as Muses 258

Héloise 259

Émilie du Châtelet 264

Jeanne Hébuterne 271

George Eliot 275

Lillian Hellman 284

Catherine Walston 293

Joyce Maynard 304

Chapter 10 Mistresses of Men Above the Law 313

Mobster Molls 313

Virginia Hill 313

Arlyne Brickman 320

Sandy Sadowsky, Georgia Durante and Shirley Ryce 323

Kremlin Dolls 326

Castro's Comrades 327

Naty Revuelta 328

Celia Sanchez 339

Chapter 11 Mistresses as Trophy Dolls 344

Marion Davies 344

Gloria Swanson 359

Maria Callas 366

Marilyn Monroe 377

Judith Campbell 388

Vicki Morgan 393

Chapter 12 Fallen Women: Mistresses in Literature 401

Jane Eyre 401

Hester Prynne 404

Emma Bovary 408

Anna Karenina 413

Mildred Rogers 415

Ellen Olenska 419 Lara 423

Sarah Miles 427

Merrion Palmer 429

Chapter 13 The 1960s Transform Marriage and Mistressdom 433

Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman 435

Lillian Ross 439

Simone de Beauvoir 442

Paula 448

Rachel 451

Michaela 454

Conclusion: Mistresses Met 458

Endnotes 465

Acknowledgments 495

Index 497

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 13, 2011

    The Other woman

    The other woman hiding in the shadow is often overlooked in the bowels of history. Now the definitive book on this taboo role has been written by Elizabeth Abbott in Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman.
    Abbott does a masterful job of going as far back as to biblical times. With a scholarly background she is Research Associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto and, from 1991 to 2004, was Dean of women. In some parts the book is a bit dense and thick to read. Rather than be a salacious tell all, it hits some of history's most famous mistresses.
    According to the book, the taboo of a mistress a recent occurrence, it was just part of the web of relationships that men had. They had their wife, who gave them their emotional and home support and the mistress satisfied their sexual needs.
    In some parts of the book, it reads like pure gossip. In others it is a good to get the full story behind the headlines.
    For instance the real relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diane mixed in with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Camilla's great-great grandmother Alice Keppel was mistress to Charles' great-great grandfather Edward VIII. Who subsequently abdicated the throne so that he could marry Wallis Simpson.
    Charles and Camilla's relationship flourished but she did not fit the role of a princess. She was frumpy, married, and older. Camilla is said to have a fun spirit a certain sexual aura. Fortunately in the end they were together but their tale is one of forbidden love.
    Another example is the many women of President Kennedy has long been discussed. In this book the bombshell Marilyn Monroe is explored and mob darling Judith Campbell. It was reported that this prince of Camelot had inadequate sexual skills and was quite the quick draw.
    In modern times partly because of the sexual liberation movement, the formal role of a mistress is not as common but still lingers as the need for sexual satisfaction survives.
    At over 500 pages, this book will give you a good taste of the magic between the sheets and behind forbidden lust. The author concludes that "today, a woman as well a man may indulge in a passionate attraction for its own sake, as an erotic adventure and surrender to the senses, a delicious interval with a lover who is not, strictly speaking, available, and whom she usually shares with another woman." Hopefully the author will explore in the future works the roles of attached women's side male lovers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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