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

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Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father’s hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in ho Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father’s hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in hopes of making her father president and herself his First Lady. To facilitate that goal, she married one of the richest men in the country, the handsome “boy governor” of Rhode Island, in the social event of the Civil War. She moved easily between the worlds of high fashion, adorning herself in the most regal Parisian gowns, and politics, managing her father's presidential campaigns. "No Queen has ever reigned under the Stars and Stripes," one newspaper would write, "but this remarkable woman came closer to being a Queen than any American woman has." But when William Sprague turned out to be less of a prince as a husband, Kate found comfort in the arms of a powerful married senator. The ensuing sex scandal ended her virtual royalty; after the marriage crumbled and the money disappeared, she was left only with her children and her ever-proud bearing. She became a social outcast and died in poverty, yet in her final years she would find both greater authenticity and the inner peace that had always eluded her. Kate Chase’s dramatic story is one of ambition and tragedy, set against the seductive allure of the Civil War and Gilded Age, involving some of the most famous personalities in American history. In this beautifully written and meticulously researched biography, drawing on much unpublished material, John Oller captures the extraordinary life of a woman who was a century ahead of her time.


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Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father’s hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in ho Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father’s hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in hopes of making her father president and herself his First Lady. To facilitate that goal, she married one of the richest men in the country, the handsome “boy governor” of Rhode Island, in the social event of the Civil War. She moved easily between the worlds of high fashion, adorning herself in the most regal Parisian gowns, and politics, managing her father's presidential campaigns. "No Queen has ever reigned under the Stars and Stripes," one newspaper would write, "but this remarkable woman came closer to being a Queen than any American woman has." But when William Sprague turned out to be less of a prince as a husband, Kate found comfort in the arms of a powerful married senator. The ensuing sex scandal ended her virtual royalty; after the marriage crumbled and the money disappeared, she was left only with her children and her ever-proud bearing. She became a social outcast and died in poverty, yet in her final years she would find both greater authenticity and the inner peace that had always eluded her. Kate Chase’s dramatic story is one of ambition and tragedy, set against the seductive allure of the Civil War and Gilded Age, involving some of the most famous personalities in American history. In this beautifully written and meticulously researched biography, drawing on much unpublished material, John Oller captures the extraordinary life of a woman who was a century ahead of her time.

30 review for American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague — Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Overmoyer

    John Oller’s cumbersomely titled AMERICAN QUEEN: THE RISE AND FALL OF KATE CHASE SPRAGUE – CIVIL WAR “BELLE OF THE NORTH” AND GILDED AGE WOMAN OF SCANDAL is a surprising biography of a woman I’d never heard of. It’s surprising for a number of reasons, each of them as legitimate and important as the next. I’m surprised that I hadn’t learned about Kate Chase Sprague in any of the history classes I’ve taken, even the ones that were centered on women in some way. Oller proves that, without a doubt, s John Oller’s cumbersomely titled AMERICAN QUEEN: THE RISE AND FALL OF KATE CHASE SPRAGUE – CIVIL WAR “BELLE OF THE NORTH” AND GILDED AGE WOMAN OF SCANDAL is a surprising biography of a woman I’d never heard of. It’s surprising for a number of reasons, each of them as legitimate and important as the next. I’m surprised that I hadn’t learned about Kate Chase Sprague in any of the history classes I’ve taken, even the ones that were centered on women in some way. Oller proves that, without a doubt, she influenced at least a quarter century of American politics and history in ways that really can’t be ignored. Women couldn’t vote when Kate, the daughter of Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary and Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon Chase, made sure that she was at the center of everything that happened in Washington, D.C. She wasn’t content to throw parties and look pretty, both of which she excelled at. She wanted to influence the course of things and she did. Oller makes the comparison that while for most citizens politics is local but for Kate politics were personal and she most of her influence trying to get her father, and later her lover, elected president. She never succeeded but that didn’t stop her. Another area of surprise is that even though Kate lived and moved over a century and a half ago, things haven’t changed much. The newspapers then, even far-flung ones in dusty Kansas towns, were fascinated by her. They reported on the clothes she wore, the men who courted her, the children she had, the parties she threw, and the affairs she may or may not have had. “Celebrity” wasn’t a concept at the time, but she was a celebrity in every sense of the word. She refused to be limited by anything and the news media ate up everything she did. This, in one of the most interesting sections of the biography, irritated Mary Todd Lincoln to no end and the supposed “war” between the two Washington hostesses is filled with vague half-truths concealing the actuality of what happened. It’s almost like a Civil War version of The Real Housewives of … and would play well in any gossip website. And just like the reality “stars” and “celebrities” of today who seek out fame often fall far, so too did Kate Sprague Chase. A marriage to a wealthy heir, Governor and later Senator William Sprague of Rhode Island, was either one of money or of love. The point is that he was a drunk and fell far below the status she envisioned for herself. The letters between Kate and William that Oller cites are fascinating looks at the private lives of two people who both excel at overcompensating for what they perceive as their own shortcomings, always at the expense of the other. The marriage didn’t last and a bad economy swept them both off their feet. Kate Sprague Chase may have been the “Belle of the North” but she died far, and somewhat pathetically, from that. She seems like the type of person that we all admire from afar, that we probably would find terribly conceited if we knew her, and that history is generally truthful with – and the truthfulness may seem unkind, but it is truth. AMERICAN QUEEN should be required reading for anyone taking a class in American history, anyone interested in this period of American history, and any woman who wants to know what ignoring societal limitations looks like. AMERICAN QUEEN is available for purchase now. (I received a copy of AMERICAN QUEEN through NetGalley in exchange for an honest & original review. My review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, and my blog.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Oh man this looks fun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane Moyle

    This is the non-fiction biography of Katherine Jane Chase Sprague, the daughter of the Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s first Secretary of the Treasury and later the 6th Chief Justice of the United States. Kate’s mother, Salmon’s second wife, died when she was five. Death was no stranger to Kate’s father and he lost his third and final wife after the birth of Kate’s half-sister. Because of her schooling and her father’s influence, Kate grew into a beautiful, self-confident woman who played his hostess This is the non-fiction biography of Katherine Jane Chase Sprague, the daughter of the Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s first Secretary of the Treasury and later the 6th Chief Justice of the United States. Kate’s mother, Salmon’s second wife, died when she was five. Death was no stranger to Kate’s father and he lost his third and final wife after the birth of Kate’s half-sister. Because of her schooling and her father’s influence, Kate grew into a beautiful, self-confident woman who played his hostess and confident for the rest of his life. She was the reigning queen of Washington for many years and the nemesis of Mary Lincoln. She married William Sprague, the Governor of Rhode Island in 1863 and had four children, a boy and three girls. She remained a beauty throughout her life but her standing in the political arena began to change after her father’s death and her fairy tale life and eventually, marriage ended. I was very excited when this book became available. I had gathered some information about Kate Sprague from the books I had read pertaining to Abraham Lincoln and his wife. All the information was about the rivalry between these two strong women but I wanted to know more about Kate, the person, and how did this young woman become so accomplished and accepted. This book did not disappoint! The author did a superb job bringing this amazing woman to life. His story was factual but very easy to read. Kate Chase Sprague was a passionate woman in all aspects of her life. This is the story of a remarkable woman who helped shape the political world of the late 1800s from behind the scenes. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes biographies. The author masterfully tells Kate’s story in such a way that you want to keep turning pages. She was a woman that was ahead of her time and I can’t wait to learn more about her!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    Kate Chase is one of the interesting and intriguing characters of American History; introduced to Washington society as the daughter of Lincoln's treasury secretary but captivated it due to her charm, intelligence, wit and beauty. She had a storybook life and married into wealth but was soon saddled by an unhappy marriage. Her fame and influence continued through her affair with the powerful Roscoe Conkling and his battles with the successive administrations of Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield a Kate Chase is one of the interesting and intriguing characters of American History; introduced to Washington society as the daughter of Lincoln's treasury secretary but captivated it due to her charm, intelligence, wit and beauty. She had a storybook life and married into wealth but was soon saddled by an unhappy marriage. Her fame and influence continued through her affair with the powerful Roscoe Conkling and his battles with the successive administrations of Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield and Chester Arthur. History has been fascinated and not kind about her eventual downfall which ended with her being reduced to selling eggs door to door to survive For the most part, the author, John Oller, treats Chase in depth with balance, nuance and understanding. He acknowledges her extravagance of expensive dresses, dinner parties and furniture while describing the effect of her charm, intellect and beauty on leading political figures. But he also shows her substance; she was truly committed to her children, she stood loyally by her special needs daughter at great sacrifice. In the telling of the unraveling of her marriage and the unraveling of her reputation with the publicity of her affair to the married Conkling he does so in the context of how limited options were for women of the time If this fine biography has a shortcoming it is in the short telling of her descent into poverty--the last 20 years of her life are told in a few pages. While he recounts her estrangement with her half sister, her son's suicide and her financial difficulties after her divorce, it is not done with the depth of the rest of the biography and I found I wished I knew more about those years and how the tragic life events affected her. But all in all, this is a good biography of a fascinating woman

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Hardly remembered today, Kate Chase Sprague was a beautiful society hostess, ambitious, charismatic and the power behind the throne both of her father and husband. More talented than either of them, this strong, accomplished and complex woman ultimately lost it all and never fulfilled her potential. Her rise and fall makes for some fascinating reading set against the backdrop of the Civil War and the Gilded Age in America. Her father, Salmon Chase, who wanted to be President, her husband William Hardly remembered today, Kate Chase Sprague was a beautiful society hostess, ambitious, charismatic and the power behind the throne both of her father and husband. More talented than either of them, this strong, accomplished and complex woman ultimately lost it all and never fulfilled her potential. Her rise and fall makes for some fascinating reading set against the backdrop of the Civil War and the Gilded Age in America. Her father, Salmon Chase, who wanted to be President, her husband William Sprague, governor of Rhode Island and her lover Roscoe Conkling who was ultimately responsible for her downfall, all failed to live up to her hopes and expectations. This is indeed a fascinating account of the life of a fascinating woman – and yet for all the author’s meticulous and painstaking research the book failed to totally engage me. This was partly because none of the characters are sympathetic or in any way likeable, but also because there is just too much detail, particularly about the politics, which ends up overwhelming the reader. Or at least, this reader. I wanted to know more about Kate’s inner life, and this just didn’t come across. In fact none of the characters truly came alive for me. Nevertheless, this exhaustive and detailed biography is well worth reading and I learnt a lot from it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike Shoop

    Compellingly written bio about Kate Chase, the absolute queen of Washington society during the Lincoln administration. Beautiful, well educated, charismatic, politically astute, and charming, her greatest goal was to get her father, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, elected President, and to serve as his White House hostess. Raised to be "qualified to ornament any society," Kate was ambitious, outspoken, clever, and influential, but unfortunately made a few bad choices, the most fatal being her marriage Compellingly written bio about Kate Chase, the absolute queen of Washington society during the Lincoln administration. Beautiful, well educated, charismatic, politically astute, and charming, her greatest goal was to get her father, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, elected President, and to serve as his White House hostess. Raised to be "qualified to ornament any society," Kate was ambitious, outspoken, clever, and influential, but unfortunately made a few bad choices, the most fatal being her marriage to William Sprague, the "Boy Governor" of Rhode Island. Oller knows his material and has done a wonderful job of relating the chaotic, intriguing, and scandalous life of this most remarkable woman. One the best biographies I've read in recent years.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I consider myself someone very interested in history, so I'm ashamed to say I had never heard of this infamous woman and her connections to American politics during the 19th century. The author did a great job of making her story interesting and I appreciate the amount of research it took to accomplish this feat. I highly recommend this book, to readers interested in looking at this time period in American history through a different set of eyes!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Becky Loader

    Ay yi yi. Kate Chase was one of Mary Todd Lincoln's major rivals in 1860's Washington, D.C society. Kate thought she was the epitome of class and culture, and she made sure that Mrs. Lincoln knew that! Kate also thought that Mrs. Lincoln was a bumpkin from a little backwater town somewhere "out west." Hrumph!! Lots of period detail and a real knowledge of the time. Great read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Lennon

    I was hoping it would be better than it was. No letters of hers survived, so the author was limited to only one side of the conversations she had throughout her life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Fintel

    Kate Chase was the daughter of Salmon P. Chase. Salmon P. Chase was the 23rd governor of Ohio, he represented Ohio in the United States Senate and served as the 25th United States Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln. Later he would serve as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States. He sought nominations for the U.S. presidency in 1860, 1868 and 1872. He was unsuccessful at all three attempts. Since Salmon P. Chase was a widower three times over, it was his 14 year old daughter, K Kate Chase was the daughter of Salmon P. Chase. Salmon P. Chase was the 23rd governor of Ohio, he represented Ohio in the United States Senate and served as the 25th United States Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln. Later he would serve as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States. He sought nominations for the U.S. presidency in 1860, 1868 and 1872. He was unsuccessful at all three attempts. Since Salmon P. Chase was a widower three times over, it was his 14 year old daughter, Kate, who became the lady of the house. As Salmon's political career soared, Kate was in charge of Salmon's social life. She threw lavish parties and her vivacious personality, charm, and wit, along with her stunning good looks made her the belle of Washington. At age 22, Kate married William Sprague, a young, handsome and very rich governor from Rhode Island. Unfortunately for Kate, her marriage was not the fairy tale she was hoping for when she married Sprague. If you would like to know more about this fascinating woman, I suggest you read this well written and informative book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Civil War history is one of my favorite topics to read and I have to say that American Queen is one my favorites. I am not sure if it is the life of Kate Chase Sprague or the author's depiction of her life that made this book such a winner. While I "knew" of her "existence" with my readings of Abraham Lincoln and the period of time, I never delve any deeper on KCS. This was just a fun read. There was a fast feeling to it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Toby Murphy

    Oller does a great job highlighting a woman who gets lost in the shuffle of other notable people of her time. Her story is incredibly intriguing and Oller really shows it well, but also weeds through the myth to highlight her humanity a bit more. At times, he seemed to veer off path and bring up more about the men in her life than seemed necessary, but it a great addition to those interested in Civil War history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Krysta

    The first third did not provide me with much information I had not already gleaned from Team of Rivals. The rest provides new information (obviously, since Team of Rivals ends in 1865). I do wish we could hear more of Kate Chase's own words, since I find it admittedly difficult to sympathize with her ambition. However, it isn't the author's fault one of her daughters destroyed most of her correspondence.

  14. 5 out of 5

    PennsyLady (Bev)

    hardcover "John Oller writes sympathetically of Kate Chase Sprague (1840-99), the daughter of Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice Salmon Chase. The author takes us through his subject's life as she moves from a high-class social butterfly who rubs elbows with political elite, has designs on becoming first lady via her father's ascent to the presidency, and butts heads with Mary Todd Lincoln, to a poverty-stricken divorcee whose scandalous affair with a senator helped end her unhappy marriage to a hardcover "John Oller writes sympathetically of Kate Chase Sprague (1840-99), the daughter of Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice Salmon Chase. The author takes us through his subject's life as she moves from a high-class social butterfly who rubs elbows with political elite, has designs on becoming first lady via her father's ascent to the presidency, and butts heads with Mary Todd Lincoln, to a poverty-stricken divorcee whose scandalous affair with a senator helped end her unhappy marriage to a volatile governor. " (Library Journal) "American Queen : the rise and fall of Kate Chase Sprague, Civil War "Belle of the North" and gilded age woman of scandal." At first I found the title lengthy. Now, I will acknowledge it as a comprehensive overview of this biographical sketch. The setting is Washington, D.C. - Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.)....19th century As the socialite emerges, you'll find an intense look at American history, "political intrigue" and the study of a rather complicated woman. You'll find every emotion you can think of within these pages. Finally, there is a noteworthy epilogue, and acknowledgments, notes and bibliography are quite extensive. I think John Oller did a fine job of sparking and sustaining my interest in Kate and giving me adequate "leads" to further develop this period of Americana.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jo-anne Atkinson

    Kate Chase was the oldest daughter of Salmon Chase, a Republican lawyer and politician in the 1860s and 1870s. Salmon Chase tried for but never attained the highest office, swapping parties and serving several presidents he worked hard and his daughter was his closest supporter and hostess. Kate was talk, attractive and socially very adept, she bloomed in Washington society. A grand political hostess, she was destined to marry well and on the surface it appeared that she did so. Her husband, Will Kate Chase was the oldest daughter of Salmon Chase, a Republican lawyer and politician in the 1860s and 1870s. Salmon Chase tried for but never attained the highest office, swapping parties and serving several presidents he worked hard and his daughter was his closest supporter and hostess. Kate was talk, attractive and socially very adept, she bloomed in Washington society. A grand political hostess, she was destined to marry well and on the surface it appeared that she did so. Her husband, William Sprague, was handsome, very rich and the youngest Senator to serve. However this glittering match fell apart, fuelled by alcoholism, infidelity and violence, leaving Kate destitute at the end. I had never heard of Kate Chase Sprague but she makes an engaging subject for a biography. The insights into the government of the Union during the Civil War are really interesting and whilst Kate comes across as a not wholly sympathetic figure, she was definitely a woman ahead of her time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Kate Chase Sprague has lived such an interesting life. She played a major role in politics, but is rarely written about in textbooks. I had never heard of her before this book, but I read somewhere that if People magazine had been around, she would be all over it (I'm too lazy to check right now if that was in the description given here on Goodreads, or elsewhere, but I saw it somewhere). And I think that's true, she would be all over these gossip websites and magazines. I loved that this book re Kate Chase Sprague has lived such an interesting life. She played a major role in politics, but is rarely written about in textbooks. I had never heard of her before this book, but I read somewhere that if People magazine had been around, she would be all over it (I'm too lazy to check right now if that was in the description given here on Goodreads, or elsewhere, but I saw it somewhere). And I think that's true, she would be all over these gossip websites and magazines. I loved that this book read like a novel. I think part of that is because the author did an amazing job of writing it, and also because Kate's life was just that interesting. The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because I felt like so much of it was about her father, Salmon P. Chase. I understand he was important to her and played a major role in her life, but I didn't enjoy reading about him as much as Kate. Despite that, this really was an interesting read and a part of history I'm glad I'm now familiar with.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Leight

    Kate Chase Sprague is an interesting historical figure and a reasonable entrance point into the politics of the Civil War and Gilded Era. That being said, after reading this biography, I'm not convinced she truly merited a full-length biography. There are only a handful of incidents in which she can truly be said to have played a significant and direct role in political events. The first part of the volume is substantially devoted to a chronicle of the life of her father, Salmon Chase, which was Kate Chase Sprague is an interesting historical figure and a reasonable entrance point into the politics of the Civil War and Gilded Era. That being said, after reading this biography, I'm not convinced she truly merited a full-length biography. There are only a handful of incidents in which she can truly be said to have played a significant and direct role in political events. The first part of the volume is substantially devoted to a chronicle of the life of her father, Salmon Chase, which was interesting. She then resurfaces much later embroiled in Gilded Age politics via her husband and lover, but only very peripherally. Much of the book is simply about her unhappy marriage, which is not a topic of sufficient interest to sustain the narrative. It might have been more effective as a long essay.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Edward Canade

    I like biography and this one was well written. It's during an important and interesting period of American history. their contemporaries were Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Roscoe Conklin, all of whom she interacted with. Kate Chase Sprague evidently made quite an impression on quite a few men and women of her period. In some ways she went from riches to rags. she entertained and was politically active mingling with the rich and powerful butt ended her life in poverty and obsc I like biography and this one was well written. It's during an important and interesting period of American history. their contemporaries were Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Roscoe Conklin, all of whom she interacted with. Kate Chase Sprague evidently made quite an impression on quite a few men and women of her period. In some ways she went from riches to rags. she entertained and was politically active mingling with the rich and powerful butt ended her life in poverty and obscurity. I think you'll enjoy it if you like biography and have any interest in finding out about some of the people living in the last half of the 1800s.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rose Joyce

    Easy to read biography of a beautiful, well-educated ,dignified ,politically astute socialite whose mother died when she was very young . Her father was a widower whose last three wives to death and statesman and a rival of Abraham Lincoln.As a young woman she was the Mistress of her father's house and yearned to be the first lady. This caused friction with Mary Lincoln.She latter became miserably married to an dashing but alcoholic senator whom she eventually divorced,She had a long term affair Easy to read biography of a beautiful, well-educated ,dignified ,politically astute socialite whose mother died when she was very young . Her father was a widower whose last three wives to death and statesman and a rival of Abraham Lincoln.As a young woman she was the Mistress of her father's house and yearned to be the first lady. This caused friction with Mary Lincoln.She latter became miserably married to an dashing but alcoholic senator whom she eventually divorced,She had a long term affair which began in her marriage to a career politician.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janis

    Kate Chase, the beautiful and ambitious daughter of Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, was arguably America’s most famous woman - and an influential political force in Washington. She badly wanted the presidency for her equally ambitious father and, some said, married the wealthy governor of Rhode Island to further that plan. Author Oller is more generous in his portrayal of Chase, telling her story with sympathy. His is a detailed and well-researched account, though more compelling when describing K Kate Chase, the beautiful and ambitious daughter of Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, was arguably America’s most famous woman - and an influential political force in Washington. She badly wanted the presidency for her equally ambitious father and, some said, married the wealthy governor of Rhode Island to further that plan. Author Oller is more generous in his portrayal of Chase, telling her story with sympathy. His is a detailed and well-researched account, though more compelling when describing Kate’s brilliant early years than her bitter end.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    It provided a glimpse into how three men greatly affected Kate Chase, daughter of Salmon Chase. Her father was cold and demanding, while Kate was charming and politically savvy - a rarity for the time. Her husband was wealthy, yet politically weak and an alcoholic womanizer. Her lover was also a womanizer, yet he was an accomplished orator, handsome and well-dressed, the opposite of her husband. I learned what they did, but not so much how they felt. Lots of obvious research but characters were It provided a glimpse into how three men greatly affected Kate Chase, daughter of Salmon Chase. Her father was cold and demanding, while Kate was charming and politically savvy - a rarity for the time. Her husband was wealthy, yet politically weak and an alcoholic womanizer. Her lover was also a womanizer, yet he was an accomplished orator, handsome and well-dressed, the opposite of her husband. I learned what they did, but not so much how they felt. Lots of obvious research but characters were only partially drawn.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tchandler

    I learned a tremendous amount of American political history from this book. However, I would have liked the author to have added more details about the people of this time period. This novel fell flat in its attempt to help us understand the motivation, emotions and character of Kate Chase Sprague. She was so unusual for a woman of that time period (active in politics, divorced) but we didn't get to really know her through this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacquie

    This book is about the daughter of Lincoln's Salmon Steward. She was as politically ambitious as she was beautiful and admired. Had she been born in this century instead of the 19th century, she'd have made Bill Clinton President instead of Hillary! (I'm just playing off an old joke! I loved Bill Clinton) We often think that today's backstabbing and dirty deals are new in Washington...it just wasn't as publicized then as much as it is now. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Georgiann Baldino

    John Oller had a difficult task, writing a biography for Kate Chase Sprague, when almost all of her letters had been burned. Often he tells her story from the perspective of others, and as a result creates a collective biography of Kate and the people in her life. I enjoyed the photos and the scandals, but found myself skimming at times.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    Interesting story of a post Civil War lady The first half of the book reads much quicker and more interesting than the second half. I appreciated the tremendous amount of research that went into this work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Wish there were more pictures. Her waist was truly as small as desired in these times. She really liked to dress--and get photographed. A statue of her, in a beautiful dress? She drove Mrs. Lincoln to madness.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kearney

    This book just came up a bit short.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    The information was good but the writing not so much. I had to force myself to get through it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    An interesting book about an interesting character from history, however it felt very weak on fact, offering suggestions for actions instead of proof.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joan Porte

    Very well researched and written book on the life of the woman who really wanted to be first lady and was handed very difficult circumstances

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