One of our recommended books is The Red Widow by Sarah Horowitz

THE RED WIDOW

The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All


Sex, corruption, and power: the rise and fall of the Red Widow of Paris

Paris, 1889: Margeurite Steinheil is a woman with ambition. But having been born into a middle-class family and trapped in a marriage to a failed artist twenty years her senior, she knows her options are limited.

Determined to fashion herself into a new woman, Meg orchestrates a scandalous plan with her most powerful resource: her body. Amid the dazzling glamor, art, and romance of bourgeois Paris, she takes elite men as her lovers, charming her way into the good graces of the rich and powerful.

more …

Sex, corruption, and power: the rise and fall of the Red Widow of Paris

Paris, 1889: Margeurite Steinheil is a woman with ambition. But having been born into a middle-class family and trapped in a marriage to a failed artist twenty years her senior, she knows her options are limited.

Determined to fashion herself into a new woman, Meg orchestrates a scandalous plan with her most powerful resource: her body. Amid the dazzling glamor, art, and romance of bourgeois Paris, she takes elite men as her lovers, charming her way into the good graces of the rich and powerful. Her ambitions, though, go far beyond becoming the most desirable woman in Paris; at her core, she is a woman determined to conquer French high society. But the game she plays is a perilous one: navigating misogynistic double-standards, public scrutiny, and political intrigue, she is soon vaulted into infamy in the most dangerous way possible.

A real-life femme fatale, Meg influences government positions and resorts to blackmail—and maybe even poisoning—to get her way. Leaving a trail of death and disaster in her wake, she earns the name the “Red Widow” for mysteriously surviving a home invasion that leaves both her husband and mother dead. With the police baffled and the public enraged, Meg breaks every rule in the bourgeois handbook and becomes the most notorious woman in Paris.

An unforgettable true account of sex, scandal, and murder, The Red Widow is the story of a woman determined to rise—at any cost.

less …
  • Sourcebooks
  • Hardcover
  • September 2022
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781728226323

Buy the Book

$26.99

Bookshop.org indies Bookstore

About Sarah Horowitz

Sarah Horowitz is the author of The Red WidowSARAH HOROWITZ has a PhD in modern European history from UC Berkeley and is core faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington and Lee University.

Praise

“A dazzling yet nuanced portrait of femme fatale Marguerite Steinheil… Fans of true crime and women’s history will find this a page-turning read.” — Booklist

Discussion Questions

1. The marriage between Meg and Adolphe was contentious for a few reasons. What were they?

2. Discuss Meg’s upbringing and family dynamic. How do you think it influenced her behavior as an adult?

3. How were different social classes popularly characterized in nineteenth- century France? Were these depictions accurate?

4. Meg wielded her sexuality to climb the social ladder. In what ways was she successful? In what ways did her sexual barter system backfire?

5. Characterize Meg’s feelings for Adolphe Steinheil, Félix Faure, and Émile Chouanard. How did her feelings differ from man to man?

6. What are the prevailing theories regarding Adolphe’s and Émilie’s murders? Which do you think is the truth?

7. As a woman (with a working-class mother), Meg understood what it meant to be marginalized, yet she still disdained other oppressed groups, including Jews and the lower classes. Why do you think that is?

8. Discuss the role media played in the Steinheil Affair. Did they make the situation better or worse? Can you draw any parallels to today’s media?

9. In what ways do you think the trial and Meg’s time in prison changed her?

10. Meg became a celebrity but never wanted to be one. Can you think of other women today who became famous without wanting to be? How might their stories be similar to Meg’s?

11. Meg was simultaneously loved and hated by the public. Why do you think that is? After learning her entire story, how do you feel about her?