Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mrs. Frank Leslie: A Fascinating Woman

Good morning. I am curious, do you like old books? Adventure and interesting women? I found all that and more this weekend when I discovered, The Kingdom of Nature an Illustrated Museum of the Animal World. 

The book was copyrighted in 1888, published in 1894 and is interesting for more than one reason. The first that it is filled with 1000 illustrations of animals from all over the world, but even more so in the fact that it was edited by a woman, Mrs. Frank Leslie.

I  love history and as I perused this book I became more intrigued by Mrs. Leslie than the book itself.  After a little research I found some interesting tid bits that you might like.

Image from The Esoceteric Curiosa Blog

Mrs. Frank Leslie was born 1836, Mariam Florence Folline, and was encouraged from a young age to study French, German, Latin and Spanish. After her first marriage at 17 then an annulment at 19, she married for the second time at 21 to noted  archaeologist  Ephraim Squier. Eighteen years later they divorced and she married her third husband Mr. Frank Leslie.

Mr. Leslie was the owner of a large publishing empire, Leslie's Weekly. He and Mariam became acquainted  when her second husband, Ephraim Squier became the Editor in Chief of Leslie's Weekly in 1860. Mariam began writing for Leslie's Weekly as a fashion editor and  after her marriage to Frank Leslie began to write and publish books in earnest for his publishing house about their travels and life together.

Unfortunately lavish spending and the economy took a toll on the publishing business and when Frank Leslie died in 1880 he left everything to Mariam, including his name and $300,000 in debt. After she settled with her creditors and secured a loan from a wealthy friend she turned the business around in one year. She also legally changed her name to Mrs. Frank Leslie in 1881.

During the 1890's Mrs. Frank Leslie was a writer, a lecturer, and a business owner with several hundred employees. She was also well traveled and celebrated here in America and abroad. It is said that she was most well known woman in America. In addition to all of the above she found time to marry her 4th husband, William Wilde, the brother of Oscar Wilde. Apparently the marriage failed soon after because William was a spendthrift among other things.

Although there are many more things to tell about Mrs. Frank Leslie(her time as an actress, a seven year menage a trois, an affair on her honeymoon, legal battles and more) I will end with this; upon her death in 1914 Mrs. Frank Leslie left roughly 2 million dollars to Carrie Chapman Catt. Do you know of her? Carrie Chapman Catt was a prominent leader of the women's suffrage movement along with Susan B. Anthony and the founder of the League of Women's Voters. 

Doesn't Mrs. Frank Leslie sound as if she lived and interesting and colorful life? 

Have you found any interesting books or treasures lately? Or perhaps discovered any interesting  people? I always enjoy learning new things and if you have I would love to hear about it. 

I hope you have a great day! Enjoy!

Information from the following sources: WikipediaThe Liz LibraryAmerican Heritage


  1. WOO!Talk about THE KINGDOM OF NATURE....this author has her own kingdom to write about and legacy to leave behind for a good read! WOW!

    Yes, I love any thing bound between to covers. From French lit to poetry, linguistics texts to novels, there is NOTHING like a good book.

  2. I think it is fascinating you were able to discover so much about the interesting author of this book...you never know what you will find in old books!!! Thanks for sharing!!! xoxox

  3. You made my day with this post. Mrs. Frank Leslie was the cousin of my husband's grandmother, Francesca Folline. The whole Folline family was very colorful and left fantastic tales as their legacy. My dear sweet mother-in-law was like them as well. The Folline family was originally from France and by way of New Orleans settled in Honduras.

    I am so happy to see the book. We have known for a while that she was an editor but we have never been able to find any books. Was your book from a flea market or estate? And what part of the country did you locate it?(only if you feel comfortable telling me)

    Thanks again for this great post!!!

    1. I’m just now learning of my relation to Ms. Frank Leslie (my ancestors were Follines) as well. She was quite the character!

  4. Hello Elizabeth

    Wat a wonderful story about Mrs Frank Leslie. A brave, erudite and courageous woman. Her life deserves to be made into a movie.
    I love books and am slowly reading the works of Samuel Beckett.
    Thanks for this fascinating post

    Helen xx

  5. A fascinating woman Elizabeth....I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for introducing us to Mrs. Frank Leslie! I can just imagine your excitement when started to read through the book. :)
    Jeanne xx

  6. Yikes, I was just kicked out of comments....oh no...I'll try to remember what I wrote! ;))
    Well, my dear, I hope you are having a good week! I've missed you! :)

    This post gave me goosebumps! What an EXTRAORDINARY, inspirational woman....
    Thank you, Elizabeth!

    We are trying to recover after yet another snow storm...wish you could visit, it is so pretty...
    And I do have a recommendation...it is the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei...have you seen the documentary about him? Fascinating...I think you would find it very interesting...

    Now don't mind me, I am going to catch up on your posts!
    Much love,
    - Irina


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