Book Review

A fascinating eye opening look at Suffrage, prostitution and the lives of women in the late 19th century.

Joanna Scutts

scarletsisters The Washington Post, March 7 2014

THE SCARLET SISTERS:
Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age

By Myra MacPherson
Twelve, 401pp. $28

For a few years in the 1870s, sisters Victoria Claflin Woodhull and Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin were the most notorious women in New York, treating the social strictures of their age as no more substantial than the spirits with which they claimed to communicate. Myra MacPherson’s captivating dual biography opens on Wall Street in 1870, as Tennie, “a bodacious beauty in her early twenties,” and her charismatic elder sister descend from their open carriage amid a throng of reporters and rubberneckers. Dressed in matching dark-blue outfits, with “shockingly short” skirts grazing their boots, they declared their new brokerage firm open for business.

As social debuts went, it was extraordinary. At the time, women were barely allowed to pass through Wall Street in covered carriages, but the sisters had…

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