American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague, Civil War “Belle of the North” and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal

John Oller. Da Capo, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-306-82280-3
“Behind every great man, there’s a great woman,” goes the saying, and Kate Chase Sprague, the “American Queen” of the Gilded Age, was just such a woman. Daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury, Sprague was a politically savvy and fiercely ambitious woman at a time women were expected to remain in the background. Despite never actually being first lady, Sprague was almost a de facto one: she was host of some of the best parties and salons in D.C., a frequent subject of the news, and was at the edge of most of the scandals of the time (she was suspected of having an affair with Sen. Roscoe Conkling). After her marriage to textile tycoon and politician William Sprague collapsed, she went bankrupt, ending her life peddling eggs and milk. Oller (Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew) details Sprague’s fascinating life, introducing readers to an inspiring woman in spite of her faults: haughtiness; personal, rather than ideological, politics; financial profligacy. The book’s analysis may not be well enough grounded in fact, verging on the speculative at times, but otherwise, Oller offers an accessible, attention-grabbing work. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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