A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America's Original Superstar (Hardcover)

The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America's Original Superstar

By Michael Foster, Barbara Foster

Lyons Press, 9781599216027, 347pp.

Publication Date: February 1, 2011



The definitive biography of a trailblazing actress who entertained and shocked the nation and the worldMarilyn Monroe might never have become the legend she did without America's original tragic starlet: actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken (1835 68). In a century remembered for Victorian restraint, Menken's modern flair for action, scandal, and unpopular causes especially that of the Jewish people revolutionized show business. On stage, she was the first actress to bare all. Off stage, she originated the front-page scandal and became the world's most highly paid actress celebrated on Broadway, as well as in San Francisco, London, and Paris. At thirty-three, she mysteriously died. A Dangerous Woman is the first book to tell Menken's fascinating story. Born in New Orleans to a "kept woman of color" and to a father whose identity is debated, Menken eventually moved to the Midwest, where she became an outspoken protege of the rabbi who founded Reform Judaism. In New York City, she became Walt Whitman's disciple. During the Civil War she was arrested as a Confederate agent and became America's first pin-up superstar. Menken married and left five husbands. Ultimately, she paid dearly for success. A major biography of a remarkable woman, A Dangerous Woman is must reading for those interested in women's history, the roots of modern-day American Judaism, and African-American history. Praise for a previous book by Barbara and Michael Foster, Forbidden Journey: The Life of Alexandra David-Neel "Hers was a great human life, very well written up in Forbidden Journey. . . . Surely this biography will provoke even more interest." New York Times Book Review.

About the Author

Michael Foster, novelist, biographer, and historian, graduated from Cornell with honors in philosophy. He received an MFA from the Writer s Workshop, Iowa, attended Harvard Law School, and did extensive graduate study and taught at NYU. His first novel, Freedom's Thunder (Avon, 1980), was praised by Nobel laureate Isaac B. Singer. His writing style has been described by Entertainment Weekly as racy and engaging. Michael is producer and writer of a DVD shot in New York s Chinatown: Asian Health Secrets. Barbara Foster, Assoc. Prof. at CUNY, specializing in Women's Studies, has co-authored three trade books. She has published many articles on education and travel and 200 poems in journals in various countries. Barbara is a referee for the Royal Geographical Society. She lectures often in the U.S. and abroad and has packed auditoriums from Washington s Smithsonian to Cal Tech, Sidney, Buenos Aires, and Prague. She recently gave seminars at Skidmore and Trinity colleges. She has been selected as a Speaker (on Menken) by the NY State Council on the Humanities. Barbara appears on TV, radio, and in print/Net interviews. Joint publications of the Fosters also include Forbidden Journey (Harper, '89), a classic of adventure travel; Three In Love (Harper, '97), the history of the romantic triangle. Praised by Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, and Bookwoman, Three In Love has been published in German, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Turkish. They have given over 100 slide talks worldwide, including highly applauded slide talks on Adah Menken at Yale Drama School, libraries and synagogues. They plan an extensive tour of the Menken show, with its spectacular photos. The Fosters have sold previous movie options and treatments to Columbia Pictures and directors Carroll Ballard and Brian Gibson, and they remain involved in bringing their biographies to the big screen."

Praise For A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America's Original Superstar


The Fosters’ skillful narrative biography of nineteenth-century superstar Adah Menken captures the richness and complexity of this Civil War-era Jezebel, an archetypal American bad girl.”

 Eve LaPlante, award-winning author of American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans

 Praise for Adah Isaacs Menken


A magnificent spectacle dazzled my visionthe whole constellation of the Great Menken came flaming out of the heavens.” Mark Twain


Adah was the premier sight of the West, the Rockies a very poor second.” Life magazine


This is she . . . the world’s delight.” Algernon Swinburne


She is so lovely she numbs the mind and the senses reel.” New York Post


The inspired Deborah of her people.” Baron Lionel de Rothschild


Today’s Hollywood celebrities have nothing on the glamorous, scandalous, tragic and paradoxical Adah Isaacs Menken.” American Jewish Historical Society


Adah Menken was the most remarkable mingling of angel and devil.” Napoleon Sarony, the first celebrity photographer


 To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. She eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.” Arthur Conan Doyle on Irene Sadler, his character based on Menken



Hers was a great human life, very well written up in Forbidden Journey.’... Surely this biography will provoke even more interest.” The New York Times Book Review


A fascinating account of the life and exploits of the brilliant 20th century Frenchwoman who became the first European female to enter the holy city of Lhasa.” Harper’s Bazaar


Blakean imagery in Alexandra David-Neel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet magnetized me toward Buddhist meditation. Now, her own vast sacred life record is happily accessible.” Allen Ginsberg