Tuesday Tea & Talk – A Dirty Year 1872: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in Gilded Age New York

June 14, 2022 @ 4:00 pm
$35, $30 for members or with advance reservation, $22 for students 22 and under

Brooklyn storyteller and author Bill Greer will kick off Ventfort Hall’s 2022 Tuesday Summer Tea & Talk series on June 14 at 4:00 pm. He will talk about the city of his book A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York. Tea will be served after his presentation.

The year is 1872, seven years after the Civil War.  New York is convulsing with social upheaval and sexual revolution. In this illustrated talk, Bill Greer paints a picture of the city from the man’s world of Wall Street to the mansions of Fifth Avenue, from the smut dealers of Nassau Street to the limelights of Broadway, from pious Christians to free-loving iconoclasts. He highlights larger-than-life characters who fascinated the city – suffragist and presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull, vice hunter Anthony Comstock, celebrity preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and more – and the issues of the day that play out through their lives, issues that resonate today, from sexual impropriety and reproductive rights to attacks on the press and the chasm between rich and poor.

Bill Greer has spent decades exploring New York, along with the world.  As a travel writer and Internet entrepreneur, he built the early web’s leading community for outdoor adventure. His turn to telling New York’s stories began with his novel The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan, exploring the city’s founding as New Amsterdam. He has served as an officer and trustee of the New Netherland Institute, chairing the Institute’s program to establish the New Netherland Research Center and receiving the Institute’s Howard Hageman award. More recently, he has focused on New York’s Gilded Age with his nonfiction narrative A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York. Bill holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has spoken on New York history throughout the Hudson Valley.

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. For reservations call us at (413) 637-3206. Please note that all tickets are nonrefundable and non-exchangeable. Proof of vaccination and ID are required. The historical mansion is located at 104 Walker Street in Lenox. The summer series of Tea & Talks is sponsored in part by board member Lucille Landa and William Landa.


A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York is a nonfiction narrative of 1872 New York, a city convulsing with social upheaval and sexual revolution and beset with all the excitement and challenges a moment of transformation brings.  As the year begins, the New York Times headlines four stories that symptomize the decay in public morals the editors so frequently decry.  Financier Jim Fisk is gunned down in a love triangle. Suffragist and free lover Victoria Woodhull is running for president.  Vice hunter Anthony Comstock battles smut dealers poisoning children’s minds.  Abortionists are thriving.

Through the year these stories intertwine in ways unimaginable, pulling in others famous and infamous – suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Brooklyn’s beloved preacher Henry Ward Beecher, the nation’s richest tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Howe, preeminent counsel to the criminal element, and more.

Through the lives of these larger-than life characters, the issues of the day play out – rigged elections, everyday shootings, attacks on the press, sexual impropriety, reproductive rights, the chasm between rich and poor – issues holding up a mirror to the country today.  Political parties split over a bitterly contested election, suffragist battles suffragist over bettering women’s place in society, pious saints fight soulless sinners, until at year-end, this jumble of conflicts explodes in the greatest sensation of the nineteenth century.