Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age

Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age

by Betsy Prioleau
Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age

Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age

by Betsy Prioleau


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“Prioleau brings enjoyable gusto to this biography of Mrs. Frank Leslie, a media baroness in the Gay Nineties whose past was filled with hidden drama and whose public life was awash with scandal and contradiction. But the real star of the book is Gilded Age New York in all its excess, right down to a monkey in a tux.” —New York Times (Editors' Choice)

The first major biography of the glamorous and scandalous Miriam Leslie, titan of publishing and an unsung hero of women’s suffrage

Among the fabled tycoons of the Gilded Age—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt—is a forgotten figure: Mrs. Frank Leslie. For twenty years she ran the country’s largest publishing company, Frank Leslie Publishing, which chronicled postbellum America in dozens of weeklies and monthlies. A pioneer in an all-male industry, she made a fortune and became a national celebrity and tastemaker in the process. But Miriam Leslie was also a byword for scandal: She flouted feminine convention, took lovers, married four times, and harbored unsavory secrets that she concealed through a skein of lies and multiple personas. Both before and after her lifetime, glimpses of the truth emerged, including an illegitimate birth and a checkered youth.

Diamonds & Deadlines reveals the unknown, sensational life of the brilliant and brazen “empress of journalism,” who dropped a bombshell at her death: She left her entire multimillion-dollar estate to women’s suffrage—a never-equaled amount that guaranteed passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In this dazzling biography, cultural historian Betsy Prioleau draws from diaries, genealogies, and published works to provide an intimate look at the life of one of the Gilded Age's most complex, powerful women and unexpected feminist icons. Ultimately, Diamonds and Deadlines restores Mrs. Frank Leslie to her rightful place in history, as a monumental businesswoman who presaged the feminist future and reflected, in bold relief, the Gilded Age, one of the most momentous, seismic, and vivid epochs in American history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468314502
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publication date: 03/29/2022
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 205,795
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Betsy Prioleau is an author, radio personality, and cultural historian. She received a PhD in American literature at Duke University, then went on to teach English and world literature at Manhattan College, where she was a tenured associate professor. She was a scholar in residence at New York University, and most recently taught cultural history at the New York University Liberal Studies Program. She is the author of Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them and Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love. Prioleau lives in New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Prologue: The Empress of Journalism 5

Chapter 1 "Delicate Huguenot Exotic": New Orleans, 1883 13

Chapter 2 Demimonde: 1856-60 41

Chapter 3 "Domestic Treachery": 1867-68 71

Chapter 4 "The Grand Seigneur of Publishers' Row": 1873-78 97

Chapter 5 "A Bitter Pill": 1878-81 125

Chapter 6 "Queen of Park Place": 1881-83 151

Chapter 7 "Cheated by Sentiment": 1884-89 177

Chapter 8 "Fascinating Woman": 1890-95 205

Chapter 9 "Long Vacation": 1895-98 229

Chapter 10 Tout ou Rien: 1898-1917 247

Epilogue: The Legacy 269

Acknowledgments 273

Notes 277

Works Cited 333

Index 347

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