Wednesday, January 21, 2015

American Queen by John Oller

American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague, Civil War "Belle of the North" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal by John Oller --- 376 pages, including Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography and Index.

This book proves that the cult of the celebrity who is famous for being famous is not unique to the 21st century. Kate Chase, the daughter of Lincoln's Treasury Secretary and later Chief Justice, was her father's official hostess in Civil War Washington, and set herself up to compete with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln as the leader of Washington society.  All in the service of her father's ambition to be President, an ambition she did everything she could to further.

The tragedy of Kate Chase Sprague, who married William Sprague, one of the richest and most politically inept men in the North, was that with all her beauty, charm, intelligence and drive, she never seemed to grasp that the pursuit of power is not an end in itself, but should be a means of achieving some greater goal. She was a woman who had no time for her own sex, but focused all her attention on captivating, manipulating and promoting the men --- her father, her husband, her lover --- whose success would enable her own social dominance. Unfortunately, each of them failed her in their turn.

The book is interesting for the light it casts on the political wheeling and dealing that went on during the War and the aftermath of the War, when the nascent efforts at reform fought against the insider deals and patronage bosses. The men who were so important then, like Kate herself, are now largely forgotten.

John Oller was a journalist, a Congressional aide, and an attorney for Major League Baseball before he became a full-time author. American Queen is his fourth book.

Click HERE to read a review of American Queen.

Click HERE to visit John Oller's website.

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