A History of Mistresses

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HarperFlamingoCanada, 2003 - 510 pages
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She has been known as the "kept woman," the "fancywoman," and the "other woman." The French acknowledge herexistence by remarking, "The chains of marriage are so heavy that it oftentakes three people to carry them." She is Jeanne Antoinette de Pompadour,and Simone de Beauvoir, not to mention Marilyn Monroe and Camilla Parker-Bowles.She is a mistress, and she has been - and is - very much apart of our humancultural history. But who is she, really? What is the true nature of themistress-lover relationship? How do women experience mistressdom? And where doeslove figure in all of this?

Elizabeth Abbott, who made celibacy sexy in her acclaimed A History ofCelibacy, has the fascinating storehouse of answers in a deliciously richblend of history, personality and cultural study. In a lively and accessiblestyle, History of Mistresses draws intimate portraits of mistressesthroughout history, from Chinese concubines to Europe's royal mistresses andthe clandestine consorts of (un)celibate clerics. Mobster molls, trophy dollsand modern mistresses are deconstructed, with often surprising results. Beyondthe personalities, some interesting themes emerge: the relationship betweenmistresses of colour and their married men; the coercion of Jewish women duringthe Holocaust; and a contemporary look at today's "power"mistresses.

From lust to love, from money to power, Abbott's A History of Mistressesferrets out the motives and morals of these women, carrying the reader along ona journey that is hugely informative and always entertaining.

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About the author (2003)

Elizabeth Abbott is Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, where she also teaches a social science course.An historian with a doctorate in 19th-century history, she has worked for over a decade as a journalist and writer with a special interest in social history and the environment.She was editor-in-chief of Chronicle of Canada, the bestselling illustrated history of Canada and the author of Haiti: The Duvaliers and their Legacy.She is a book reviewer for The Globe and Mail and The Gazette (Montreal).She has written for Harrowsmith, The Next City and Equinox and in 1992 won a National Magazine Award for environmental writing.A History of Celibacy is her most recent book.

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