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For other authors named Karen Abbott, see the disambiguation page.

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About the Author

Karen Abbott was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She worked as a journalist for several years at Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Weekly. She also wrote for Salon.com and other publications. She has written several books including Sin in the Second City and American Rose. show more (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo by Gilbert King

Works by Karen Abbott

Associated Works

Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex (2011) — Contributor — 107 copies


19th century (21) 20th century (27) American (13) American Civil War (24) American history (90) audible (14) audiobook (20) biography (138) brothels (44) burlesque (30) Chicago (181) Chicago history (14) Civil War (85) crime (35) currently-reading (14) ebook (47) espionage (30) Everleigh Club (25) feminism (14) fiction (17) goodreads import (17) Gypsy Rose Lee (24) historical (26) history (370) Illinois (17) Kindle (44) library (17) non-fiction (429) politics (15) prostitution (97) read (23) sex (21) spy (24) to-read (491) true crime (47) unread (23) USA (43) vaudeville (18) women (46) women's history (19)

Common Knowledge



The information was interesting but the style was hard to read. I gave up about 2/3 of the way through; I simply didn't care anymore.
Zmosslady | 57 other reviews | May 13, 2024 |
This grew on me as I got towards the end, but it's certainly a slow build. The cult is gross, but the one twin lying to the other raises interesting questions. If you could protect the person you most love from the things/memories that most hurt them, would you?
KallieGrace | 3 other reviews | May 8, 2024 |
An attempt to follow up Eric Larson's Devil in the White City by examining the Chicago demimonde in the South Side Levee--the segregated vice district. The characters and historical vignettes are all there, but it never quite comes together. In Larson's tale from the World's Fair, the jarring juxtaposition of human zenith and nadir accentuates the remarkability of both. Here the crimes and antipodes are more banal and less clearly drawn. The chronology and flow of events, what's fact and what's fiction, are opaque and lost at times, making for a confused and bewildering story that lacks momentum at times. An interesting portrait of a city and a decade as progressivism turned towards social hygiene and did away with the whorehouses--and eventually the saloons, the imbeciles, and 18th century notions of liberty. Sadly, much of that needs to be inferred.… (more)
JohnLocke84 | 52 other reviews | Apr 22, 2024 |
(2014) NF. Abbott tells the story of 4 women who were either spies or undercover during the Civil War. The most fascinating is the story of Emma Edmonds who enlisted with the Union disguised as a man and served valiantly during the war all the while hiding her sex. Very good.KIRKUS:Four Civil War subversives¥who happened to be womenÂ¥garner a lively treatment.Having previously written on Gypsy Rose Lee (American Rose) and the Everleigh brothel in turn-of-the-century Chicago (Sin in the Second City), Abbott finds some sympathetic, fiery characters in these four women who managed to aid their causes, either North or South, in their own particular ways. Belle Boyd, a 17-year-old farmer's daughter from Martinsburg, Virginia, which had voted three to one against secession, declared her loyalty to the Southern cause by shooting a Yankee soldier who dared to touch her mother, and thereby took advantage of the confusion and movement of troops to slip through the lines and pass secrets; she was in and out of jail during the course of the war. Emma Edmonds, having left the family farm in 1859 to reinvent herself as a man selling Bibles door to door, offered herself to the Union cause two years later, serving mostly in a medical capacity. According to Abbott, Edmonds was one of 400 women, Northern and Southern, who posed as men. Rose Greenhow, a comely widow and grieving mother of some means in Washington, D.C., fashioned herself as a spy for the Southern cause, learning code, passing messages wound in her servants' hair and inviting all kinds of late-night gentlemen callers; Greenhow would eventually go abroad to drum up sympathy for the Confederacy in England and France, turning her charms on Napoleon III and others. A wealthy Richmond spinster, Elizabeth Van Lew had deep Yankee roots in her family and was unique in that she cultivated intricate subterfuge right under her Southern neighbors' nosesÂ¥e.g., passing Confederate troops movements to Gen. Benjamin Butler. Abbott proceeds chronologically, navigating the historical record through quotes and personal detail.Remarkable, brave lives rendered in a fluidly readable, even romantic history lesson.Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014ISBN: 978-0-06-209289-2Page Count: 544Publisher: Harper/HarperCollinsReview Posted Online: June 1, 2014Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014… (more)
derailer | 57 other reviews | Jan 25, 2024 |



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Associated Authors

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Milan Bozic Cover designer
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