Strong Passions: A Scandalous Divorce in Old New York

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM


Wednesday, July 10, 2024 
6:30 pm
Pre-registration required

Location: The Skylight Gallery at Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003

Co-sponsored by the Salmagundi Club, Coffee House Club, and the Merchant’s House Museum

On a sparkling spring day in 1853, Mary Emmeline Stevens married Peter Remsen Strong at her family’s elegant Bleecker Street townhouse. They were said to be ideally matched—charming, well-educated, deeply in love, and from two of New York’s best families.

A dozen years later, the couple’s supposedly storybook marriage catastrophically collapsed when Mary confessed to Peter that she was having an affair with his brother. Peter sued Mary for divorce for adultery, but not before she accused him of forcing her into an abortion and having his own affair with the abortionist. The abortionist lived on Waverly Place, where Peter was her landlord.

Barbara Weisberg recounts how the divorce trial Strong v. Strong riveted the nation with a shocking glimpse into the private lives of New York’s elite and raised issues related to women’s rights still in the headlines today. The true tale of a family and country in turmoil at the end of the Civil War, the Strongs’ story—largely set against the backdrop of Greenwich Village—illuminates a world and neighborhood in process of transformation.

About the Speaker: 

Barbara Weisberg is a writer and former television producer whose book Strong Passions: A Scandalous Divorce in Old New York focuses on a remarkable divorce trial in the 1860s. Her book Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism traces the lives and careers of the enigmatic Fox sisters, founders of 19th-century American Spiritualism. Weisberg also has written four children’s books and produced programming for network and cable television, including co-creating the long-running sitcom Charles in Charge.

Weisberg received her M.Phil. in American Studies from Yale University and her M.F.A. from Brooklyn College, where she was awarded the MacArthur Scholarship in Poetry. She received the D. Scott Rogo Award from the Parapsychology Foundation for her work on the history of Spiritualism, and the Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Grant for Creative Writers and Artists to pursue her research on the Fox sisters. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Authors Guild, Biographers International, and the American Antiquarian Society.

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