A president died in bed with him. This new book sheds light on sex, society and murder
According to historian Sarah Horowitz, the French do not remember much of President Félix Faure in the 19th century. But he remembers how he died. She breathed her last in 1899 during a winter visit with a woman named Marguerite-Jean Steinheil, later known as the Red Widow.
Despite her nickname, the woman who calls herself “Meg” probably didn’t intend to kill her boyfriend. However, Horowitz writes in her new non-fiction book, “The Red Widow: The Scandal That Shook Paris and the Woman Behind It All” (Sourcebook, $26.99), “This is a book about a woman who lost life.” lied all his life.
So who knows what really happened?
And who really knows if, shortly after the president’s death, it was she who killed her husband and mother? Someone did this one night when Meg was loosely tied to her bed.
Curiously, each of his toes was individually attached to the bedpost.
So Horowitz can’t say for sure who carried out the murders, but after combing through primary sources and getting to know Meg, she has an opinion.
“I really don’t think she murdered her husband and mother. I think she knows who did this,” Horowitz says over the phone from Virginia, where she’s a professor of history at Washington University and Lee.
Meg was a middle-class woman whose times severely limited her options, but she managed to beat her rank in life. Despite marrying a gifted and struggling artist she disliked, Meg hatches a plan to reach the social stratosphere of Paris and wins.
She reached these upper limits through a form of sexual act that had been overcome by being a prostitute or prostitute. Meg was, after all, a married woman with ambition and handled her affairs with the utmost care.
Prostitution was legal at the time, and workers registered with the police and submitted to regular examinations, although they often ended up in jail anyway. Horowitz writes that because men were “thought to need regular sexual outlets, prostitutes shielded society from male desire”. At the time, society viewed women as “a rebellious but indispensable part of city life.”
Not the kind of job that would bring Meg into the circle of power she yearned for; This path had disappeared.
On the other hand, the sportsmanship of the proper courtiers—the rich and powerful, with whom she so desired to be associated—was abandoned by those not directly associated with her. He wouldn’t take her where she wanted to go.
Meg’s solution was brilliant; He used his biggest loss to his advantage.
his household income was hacked; No one wanted to buy her husband’s painting.
So Meg spreads the word to the leading men that if they buy her husband’s job, she will come into sexual contact. Some were one-night stands, others turned into lasting friendships or lifelong business deals between Meg and the many men who accepted her offer.
“Technically, she’s not trading sex for money. She has an affair. She is pursuing her husband’s career. And, with her new connection, she has a direct relationship of sex for money. There was a lot more socially acceptable at the time than exchanges,” says Horowitz.
Horowitz, an academic, originally wanted “The Red Widow” to be a scholarly work like his first book, “Friendship and Politics in Revolutionary France.” She believed that an academic approach would be best as it disclosed important information about the role of women in society, as well as the material used to form theories about crime and class from this period.
His friends disagreed. He said the book should be aimed at a wider audience, as the story was very juicy.
“It’s a story where there are absurd lies, costumes, dramatic reveals and cliffhangers. And the lady at the center, she really is – to use the slang of our time – messy. He must have poisoned a friend; She blackmails her ex-boyfriend’s widow; “He’s having an affair with his cousin to get his family members back,” Horowitz says.
Horowitz believes the most famous modern story is that of Anna Delvey, as depicted in the “Inventing Anna” series.
“Basically, (Anna) pretends she’s rich, that her dad is a super rich guy,” Horowitz says. People lend him money thinking he’s good for it. “She thus enters New York high society.”
Meg lied too, and her lies served two main purposes: to look more famous than she was and to appear more respectable.
“A kind of respectable society woman,” Horowitz says, “as opposed to someone who has sex for money.”
But the lie also permeated Horowitz’s other sources, making the narrative difficult to elaborate. Police records of the double murder and none of Meg’s media coverage have proven to be as unreliable as her memoir.
Prior to the murder trial, Meg was behind bars and the police initially acted to show her as innocent as possible, possibly due to her involvement with men at the highest levels of leadership.
However, as more information about her adventures leaked to the press and some of her lovers were granted immunity or anonymity, the police quashed the story in an effort to distance themselves and make her appear like this. Criminal As far as possible.
As for the press, there were 79 daily newspapers in Paris at the time, so journalists and editors were in fierce competition to publish the most exciting information, whether it was completely true or not.
Horowitz would have known three or more accounts of one event, with no sure way of knowing which was true.
In the end, she says, she took two approaches: “I wanted to let readers judge for themselves what they thought was most admirable. In other cases, what did I choose? I Thought was the more plausible version. ,
In each case, Horowitz leaves readers with plenty to ponder, both about Meg’s story and how it relates to our own times, much of it related to sexuality and its expression.
Horowitz was in college when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal surfaced and says media coverage created a dangerous message for young women about their bodies – Monica Lewinsky’s body shape was criticized – and further blamed the young intern, who is often called ‘the most powerful man in the world’, the President of the United States said.
Likewise, Meg’s coverage of the scandal also sent messages to women of the time, most of which concerned the idea that a woman’s sexuality was something to be ashamed of and something to hide.
“There are still a lot of double standards between men and women and who deserves to have sex,” Horowitz says. “I think the way we make fun of people for their sexuality is still something that strikes me just as much.”
Be that as it may, a president who dies in an attack like Félix Faure, or who was once embroiled in a sex scandal like Bill Clinton, may very well go down in history not for his political work but for his mistress. down.
Anne Nigendorf is a writer and editor for the Kansas City Public Library and author of “Secret Kansas City” and “Kansas City Scavenger.” Follow her @AnneKniggendorf.
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“As decades of mistreatment between the rich and powerful suddenly became visible, working class desperation boiled over. Activists were outraged at the way politicians ran state-run prostitution schemes. Peddlers roam the streets singing bitterly to Meg that “there’s so much more evil in your world / Than a starving workman”. The poor have long been told that their social superiors are also their moral superiors. But if Meg rose to the top of society, if the elite could be dishonest and licentious, if she could forgive or even murder, then clearly those lessons were just myths that underlie an unequal social structure. . had to build.
“…a union of servants used the scandal to investigate what it called ‘a life of corruption and criminality among the bourgeoisie in general’. Servants were members of the working class who often knew that the innate reality of their employers’ lives did not match their claims of propriety. Now, when the secrets of many at the top of the social hierarchy have come to light, the union hoped that more revelations would lead not just to particular individuals, but rather to the whole hierarchy declining.