Join us in welcoming author, Besty Prioleau to discuss her recent biography, Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age.
About the Book:
The first major biography of the glamorous and scandalous Miriam Leslie—a titan of publishing and an unsung hero of women’s suffrage. A fantastic Gilded Age story that speaks to the important social issues of our time.
Among the fabled tycoons of the Gilded Age—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt—is a forgotten figure: Mrs. Frank Leslie. For 20 years she ran the country’s largest publishing empire 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.
But Miriam Leslie was a byword for scandal. She flouted feminine mores, took lovers, married four times, and harbored unsavory secrets she concealed through a skein of lies and multiple personas, including possible mixed-race parentage and a checkered youth. At her death, she dropped a bombshell: she left her multimillion-dollar estate to Women’s suffrage—a never-equaled amount that guaranteed passage of the 19th Amendment.
A dazzling biography, Diamonds and Deadlines reveals 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.
Betsy Prioleau was born and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. Her father was portrait artist Hugo Stevens, and her home life, full of books, art, and talkfests. She worked as a reporter on the Charlottesville Daily Progress and received a B.S. and M.A. from the University of Virginia.
After a Ph.D. in American literature at Duke University, she taught 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. Besides scholarly articles, she has written for popular publications and authored four books — Diamonds and Deadlines (2022), Swoon (2013), Seductress (2003) and Circle of Eros (1983).
She lives with her husband Philip in Charleston, South Carolina and New York City, and dances with her grandchild Olivia, gardens, and swims when she’s not buried in books.