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Notorious Woman: The Celebrated Case of Myra Clark Gaines (Southern Biography Series)

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807130247
ISBN-10: 0807130249
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Myra Clark Gaines was 25 and about to be married when she discovered that the couple who had raised her were not her birth parents and that she was the daughter of one of the richest men in America, Daniel Clark. Thus began Myra's lifelong involvement with the courts, as she sought to prove her claim as a legitimate heir to her father's fortune. Her suit hinged on her status under Louisiana law; if she were "legitimate," then she would be entitled to four-fifths of her father's very considerable holdings. She need not have been born in wedlock a paternal declaration would do unless she were an "adulterous bastard," the product of a union in which at least one partner was married to someone else. Her claim was vigorously opposed by the executors of Clark's will, acting on behalf of his heirs. The stage was set for more than 50 years of litigation in which Myra played the role of heroine of a sentimental romance and gained the sympathy of a nation. This southern Louisiana Bleak House came to a predictable end: Myra recovered a tiny portion of the original millions and left her own heirs to split $60,000, a sum still being litigated years after her death. Alexander's painstakingly researched and documented account fully explores every facet of the affair; however, whether Myra represents a heroic woman transgressing 19th-century legal boundaries or merely another obsessed and combative heir is less certain.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"It is as interesting a story now as it was to the mass reading public in the nineteenth century."
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Product Details

  • Series: Southern Biography Series
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: LSU Press (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807130249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807130247
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,141,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was unaware of the Gaines case until I stumbled over some stuff relating to it while working on another project involving New Orleans and financial history. A lucky find. This is a superior work of careful historical scholarship that is grounded in a massive investigation of primary sources. The angle is interesting: if Ms Gaines makes her case, the legitimacy of more than a few important property titles goes up in smoke, and the parties affected--including those who interest me--were some of the wealthiest people in the antebellum South. So Gaines, whose legitimacy is at issue, becomes the outsider who has to face down the power, money, and connections of an established elite. Not only is the story good, I found myself picking up relevant details about the city and its economic life that have changed my thinking about a few matters, including a technical one. So what more can you ask for? A good story, a frisson of prurience, and a thoroughly professional job. In light of the discovery and verification of Richard III in England, the thought occurs--DNA testing? No descendants? I can see from other comments there are. Suppose Ms Gaines was correct about her ancestry and the skullduggery that led to its concealment?

My compliments to the author.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes is the truth is stranger than fiction! This is certainly the case with Notorious Woman: The Celebrated Case of Myra Clark Gaines. This book had everything I wanted -- scandalous family secrets, an heir fighting for legitimacy, a struggle through the courts, even a murder -- AND, it's all true! The author re-tells the drama as it unfolded in the courtroom and lets you come to your own conclusion: Was Myra Clark Gaines the true heir to a New Orleans real estate fortune worth millions? You decide.
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Format: Hardcover
It's fascinating to re-read my ancestoral history from a historian's perspective. Having heard the "filtered" versions passed down through my family, it was wonderful to get a different account of the events. It's a great read, well put together and was definitely enjoyed!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Urban Alexander offers a brilliantly crafted historiography. The research involved here is extensive and intricate, and the citations impeccable. Besides telling the story chronologically, Alexander takes an unusual tact that offers insight not often available in this type of work. She has endeavored to take the reader into the minds and motives of the judiciary involved in the many stages of the litigation, into the political atmosphere of the time, and the social mores of the era. Gaines is portrayed as a strong, determined woman who pursues vindication throughout her adult life. Although the story is true, it is a riveting novel written with true inspiration!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I LOOK FORWARD TO READING THIS BOOK, AS I LIVE IN THE NEW ORLEANS AREA. ACTUALLY, I LOANED IT TO A FRIEND WHO REPORTS THAT IT WAS INTERESTING, INTRIGUING AND INFORMATIVE.
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