Award-winning author and journalist Patricia Miller will discuss her book Bringing Down the Colonel: A Sex Scandal of the Gilded Age and the “Powerless” Woman Who Took on Washington at Ventfort Mansion and Gilded Age Museum. The speaker will join our Summer series of Tuesday Talks on June 15 at 4:00 pm.
Bringing Down the Colonel tells the story of Madeline Pollard, who sued Congressman William Campbell Preston Breckinridge for breach of promise to marry in 1893, launching a sensational scandal that transfixed the nation.
What Pollard did was shocking because she revealed herself as a “fallen” woman—a woman who had had sex outside of marriage. She made Breckinridge answer for his seduction of her as a teenager in a five-week trial that was front-page news across the country. Madeline’s brave stand prompted women to rise up and demand change in what was undoubtedly the first #MeToo moment.
The book also recounts the story of other players in the saga—Jennie, a young office worker sent by Breckinridge allies into a home for fallen women to spy on Madeline; Julia Blackburn, the Washington matron who defied her social status to testify in support of Pollard, and Nisba, Breckinridge’s daughter, whom he championed and supported as she became one of the truly outstanding career women of her day.
“Bringing Down the Colonel” is a deeply researched account of the affair and its aftermath, along with an examination of the changing sexual mores of the late 19th century…In today’s #MeToo world, “Bringing Down the Colonel” reverberates in unexpected ways.” —The Wall Street Journal
Miller is an award-winning author and journalist whose fascination with the untold stories of women led her on a ten-year journey to unearth the story of the Breckinridge–Pollard scandal. Her work on the interplay of politics and sexual morality has appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, The Nation, Huffington Post and Ms. Magazine. She received a master’s degree in journalism from NYU.
The admission is $20 per person and is available on Zoom only. To order visit https://ventfort06152021. The Summer 2021 series of Tuesday Talks are sponsored by Ventfort Hall board member Lucille Landau and William Landa.