The Trials of a Scold: The Incredible True Story of Writer Anne Royall

Jeff Biggers. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-06512-4
Biggers (State Out of the Union), an American Book Award–winning journalist, resurrects the astonishing life story of the pioneering muckraker Anne Royall (1769–1854). Though now little known, Royall was a groundbreaking traveler, agitator, and journalist, known for her cutting commentary on both church and state and on the blurred boundaries between the two. Biggers sets his larger-than-life subject in the context of her times, showing how her infamous trial for being a “common scold” resulted from her passion for “free thought, free speech and a free press” colliding with the surge of evangelicalism in the late 1820s. A lively and witty chronicler, Biggers covers Royall’s trial as well as her upbringing in the woods of Appalachia; her marriage to a wealthy landowner and Revolutionary war veteran (they openly lived together before their nuptials); her growth as a writer; and her reinvention as a publisher after her conviction when, at age 62, she launched her own newspaper in Washington, D.C., assisted by orphans—a venture that lasted over two decades. Captivating and thoroughly researched, this work also delves into why Royall was forgotten, noting that “her place in history has not been crafted by her own prolific pen, but by the largely scolding interpretation of others.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/07/2017
Release date: 11/07/2017
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