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About the Book

The first major biography of the glamorous and scandalous Miriam Leslie—a titan of publishing and an unsung hero of women’s suffrage. A fantastic Gilded Age story that speaks to the important social issues of our time.

Among the fabled tycoons of the Gilded Age—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt—is a forgotten figure: Mrs. Frank Leslie. For 20 years she ran the country’s largest publishing empire which chronicled postbellum America in dozens of weeklies and monthlies. A pioneer in an all-male industry, she made a fortune and became a national celebrity and tastemaker.

But Miriam Leslie was a byword for scandal. She flouted feminine mores, took lovers, married four times, and harbored unsavory secrets she concealed through a skein of lies and multiple personas, including possible mixed-race parentage and a checkered youth. At her death, she dropped a bombshell: she left her multimillion-dollar estate to Women’s suffrage—a never-equaled amount that guaranteed passage of the 19th Amendment.

A dazzling biography, Diamonds and Deadlines reveals the unknown, sensational life of the brilliant and brazen “Empress of Journalism” who presaged the feminist future and reflected, in bold relief, the Gilded Age, one of the most momentous, seismic, and vivid epochs in American history.

Articles by Betsy

Air Mail—”Inside Story: The High and Low” (March 26, 2022)

Articles by Others

NPR “All of It”—”A New Biography of Miriam Leslie, Gilded Age Trailblazer” (April 11, 2022)

Kirkus Reviews—”Diamonds and Deadlines: A Tale of Greed, Deceit, and a Female Tycoon in the Gilded Age” (Online: December 09, 2021 | Print: January 22, 2022)

Town & Country—”9 Books to Read After You Finish Watching The Gilded Age” (February 01, 2022)

Town & Country—”The 37 Must-Read Books of Spring 2022” (March 08, 2022)

Wall Street Journal—”‘Diamonds and Deadlines’ Review: A Husband Hunter Turned Publisher” (March 17, 2022)

Women’s Wear Daily—”Keeping Current With Fashion-Related Reading” (March 21, 2022)

Video and Audio

WNBC—”Bill’s Books: Women’s History Month” (March 13, 2022)

The Gilded Age and Progressive Era with Michael Patrick Cullinane—”Diamonds and Deadlines: The Life of Miriam Leslie” (July 12, 2022)

  • A “Bill’s Books” Selection from Bill Goldstein on Today in New York

“An appropriately twisty tale of someone trying to outrun her origins. . . . Her story sparkles, as intoxicating as a champagne fountain that somebody else is paying for.”
The New York Times Book Review

“[An] extremely well-researched biography . . . Prioleau is especially strong on context, bringing Gilded Age New York to vivid life. Her book is also the story of a woman who took on men at their own game—and beat most of them. This is an extraordinary life, well told.”
Anne de Courcy, The Telegraph (starred review)

“Ms. Prioleau brings this forgotten woman vividly to life. . . . Along the way, she provides a wider picture of the society Miriam inhabited, with its extremes of affluence and penury. . . . Part of the pleasure of the book is the Kim Kardashian factor—reading about a woman who breaches social norms and succeeds on her own terms.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Prioleau skillfully untangles the mysteries of Miriam’s early life and vividly evokes the era. This entertaining biography restores a remarkable woman to her rightful place in American history.”
Publishers Weekly

“They just don’t make characters like this anymore. Kudos to Prioleau for her gallant historical rescue mission.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[An] eye-widening biography . . . Prioleau tells Miriam’s roller-coaster tale with thrilling precision within the finely rendered context of evolving newspaper and magazine publishing, the struggles for worker and women’s rights, and historical events propelled by outrageous charlatans that are disturbingly relevant to the present. . . . High praise to Prioleau for so vividly and incisively telling the whole dramatic story of this ‘titanic vanguard figure.’”
Booklist (starred review)

“The fascinating true story of the first publishing titan in America—the forgotten Mrs. Frank Leslie, a Gilded Age journalistic powerhouse who led a life of intrigue, scandal, and grit. Diamonds and Deadlines takes us inside a world of larger-than-life characters, cinematic scenes, and dramatic exposés. Mrs. Leslie, a legend in her time, was not who she seemed. Betsy Prioleau restores this fabulous, pioneering woman to her rightful place in history with novelistic flair and zest.”
Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

“Riveting…Betsy Prioleau has drawn a fascinating portrait of a self-made, up-from-poverty publishing tycoon, the irrepressible Miriam Leslie, whose exploits scandalized society during the Gilded Age even as she shaped modern culture with her popular magazines.”
Meryl Gordon, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Astor Regrets, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, and Bunny Melon

Diamonds and Deadlines is the deftly told account of a bold, dazzling woman who used sex, deceit, and her publishing empire to become a powerful, bold-faced celebrity during New York’s Gilded Age. Prioleau’s skillful narrative hand and intimate historical detail do justice to Miriam Leslie, resurrecting her from all-but-forgotten figure to an emblem of feminism.”
Esther Crain, Founder of Ephemeral New York and author of The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910

“What a rollicking, rollercoaster read! The astonishing Mrs Frank Leslie has found her perfect champion in biographer Betsy Prioleau. Prioleau’s meticulous, engaging account of the dazzling life of one of America’s most splendid and spirited entrepreneurs, a woman of tremendous dynamism, bursts with colour and excitement. With great skill, Prioleau describes the resourcefulness, magnetism and charm of a woman who pushed herself to the centre of a dazzling, debauched social milieu, populated by an extraordinary cast of misfits, arrivistes and the unimaginable wealthy, whose “carnival excesses” she then documented in her sensational newspapers and magazines. Mrs Frank Leslie, a dazzling pioneer of nineteenth century journalism and publishing, reinvented herself multiple times, made and lost several fortunes, and stopped society in its tracks time and time again, most notably in the way she disposed of her fortune. Prioleau’s pacy, gripping narrative, sharp-witted asides and skill at invoking the opulent spectacles, scents and sounds of fin de siècle New York, London and Paris, propelled me through switchback, cinematic chapters with wonderful cliff-hanger endings. Fun, fascinating and gloriously gossipy.”
Eleanor Fitzsimons, author of Wilde’s Women and The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit