Author, radio personality and cultural historian Betsy Prioleau will reveal a forgotten figure among the fabled tycoons of the Gilded Age, Mrs. Frank Leslie, the subject of her latest book, Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age, during her presentation at Ventfort Hall on Saturday, October 1 at 3:30 pm. A tea will follow her presentation.
She will discuss the unknown, sensational life of the brilliant and brazen “empress of journalism” 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. For twenty years Mrs. Frank Leslie ran the country’s largest publishing company, Frank Leslie Publishing, which chronicled the postbellum United States in dozens of weeklies and monthlies.
A pioneer in an all-male industry, Miriam Leslie made a fortune and became a national celebrity and tastemaker in the process. She 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 during and after her lifetime, glimpses of the truth emerged, including a likely mixed-race parentage, an illegitimate birth and checkered youth. At the end, her final move was even a bombshell: Leslie willed her entire multimillion-dollar estate to women’s suffrage, a never-equaled amount that guaranteed the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
In this dazzling biography, Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age, author Betsy Prioleau draws from diaries, correspondence, genealogies and published works to provide an intimate look at the life of one of the Gilded Age’s most complex heiresses and unexpected feminist icons, ultimately restoring 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.
The New York Times Editors’ Choice: “Prioleau brings enjoyable gusto to this biography of Mrs. Frank Leslie. Her story sparkles, as intoxicating as a champagne fountain that someone else is paying for.”
Prioleau received a PhD in American literature from 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 in the New York University liberal studies program. She is the author of The Circle of Eros: Sexuality in the Work of William Dean Howells, Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them and Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love.
Tickets are $30 for members and with advance reservation; $35 day of; $22 for students 22 and under. Reservations are required as seats are limited. Walk-ins accommodated as space allows. For reservations call us at (413) 637-3206. Please note that all tickets are nonrefundable and non-exchangeable. Masks are required. The historical mansion is located at 104 Walker Street in Lenox.