Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father's hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in hopes of making her father president and herself his First Lady. To facilitate that goal, she married one of the richest men in the country, the handsome “boy governor” of Rhode Island, in the social event of the Civil War. She moved easily between the worlds of high fashion, adorning herself in the most regal Parisian gowns, and politics, managing her father's presidential campaigns. "No Queen has ever reigned under the Stars and Stripes," one newspaper would write, "but this remarkable woman came closer to being a Queen than any American woman has."
But when William Sprague turned out to be less of a prince as a husband, Kate found comfort in the arms of a powerful married senator. The ensuing sex scandal ended her virtual royalty; after the marriage crumbled and the money disappeared, she was left only with her children and her ever-proud bearing. She became a social outcast and died in poverty, yet in her final years she would find both greater authenticity and the inner peace that had always eluded her.
Kate Chase's dramatic story is one of ambition and tragedy, set against the seductive allure of the Civil War and Gilded Age, involving some of the most famous personalities in American history. In this beautifully written and meticulously researched biography, drawing on much unpublished material, John Oller captures the extraordinary life of a woman who was a century ahead of her time.
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About the Author
John Oller, a lawyer and former journalist, is the author of Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew, which film critic Leonard Maltin called "an exceptional piece of work," and the Los Angeles Daily News praised, saying it "neither blinks nor blurs in its examination of a very colorful and eventful life." He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Prologue: A Woman in the Arena ix
Part 1 Miss Chase
1 "Qualified to Ornament Any Society" 3
2 "I Shall Strive to Be First Wherever I May Be" 12
3 "How Short Then Is This Life!" 20
4 The Belle of Columbus 28
5 The Belle of Washington 39
6 The Boy Governor 45
7 Mrs. Lincoln's Rival 60
8 Wedding of the Decade 74
Part 2 Mrs. Sprague
9 "Imagine My Disappointment" 87
10 "Our Accomplished Countrywoman" 96
11 "More Unfitness Day by Day" 101
12 "I Am Told That She Actually Controls the Entire Affair" 108
13 "You Have Been Most Cruelly Deceived" 120
14 "I Almost Hate This Man" 128
15 "She's Capable of Hitting Him" 134
16 Some Dared Call It Treason 142
17 End of an Era 148
18 End of an Empire 156
19 "Intended by Their Creator for Each Other" 163
20 "Mrs. Conkling Is Not Here This Winter" 172
21 "The Now Notorious Outbreak" 182
22 "The Bird Has Flown" 201
Part 3 Kate Chase Again
23 "A Dinner with the Queen" 211
24 "As Much Alone as Cleopatra" 216
25 Gilded Age Woman 228
26 Stalwart Woman 235
27 An Unmarried Woman 239
28 An Independent Woman 243
29 "What We Have Is Good" 252
30 "None Outshone Her" 260
Selected Bibliography 355
Photographs following page 184
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a fascinating look at the life of Kate Chase Sprague who was a savvy pioneer of powerful women in politics. It is a mix of history and drama that beautifully portrays the life of this woman who was hugely influential . Despite being a supporting cast member she made an impact on the politics during the Civil War by becoming the 'Belle of the North" and creating change and movement in her own unique way. A real page turner and a 'must read'
Fast moving, absorbing, can't put it down tale of a remarkable woman. Well written
A thorough and fascinating account of a little-remembered but thoroughly engaging person. The book mixes political history with psychological analysis and intrigue. A great read in so many ways -- American history, culture, and social life -- in the context of the post-Civil War era. Oller really captures the tone of the times and made me feel like I was in Kate Chase's home as I was reading about her.