Suffragist of the Month, June 2016

miriam_folline_leslie_portrait_by_mozer1a0x-d97ggi5Miriam Folline Leslie

1836 – 1914

Miriam Folline was born in New Orleans on June 3, 1846. After a brief marriage that was annulled in 1856, she spent a year on the stage, and in 1857 married Ephraim G. Squier, who in 1861 became an editor of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper had debuted in 1855 and became enormously successful, continuing publication until 1922. In 1897 its circulation had grown to about 65,000. Miriam began contributing articles to the paper; in 1863 she began editing Leslie’s Lady’s Magazine, and in 1871 Frank Leslie’s Lady’s Journal. In 1872 she divorced Squier and married Leslie, thus solidifying her position as a writer and editor of some very successful publications, as well as a wealthy and influential socialite.

It was not to last. Leslie died in 1880, leaving the business in disarray. Miriam began a comprehensive overhaul of the entire publication, and in 1882, in a daring move, she legally changed her name to Frank Leslie. Through diligence and hard work she re-established the publication’s prominence, earning her the title of “Empress of Journalism.” She continued management of the publication on and off until her retirement in 1901.

Miriam led a colorful life, replete with many romances, divorces and business liaisons, but throughout it all she was a quiet but strong supporter of the woman suffrage cause. At her death in 1914 she left a million dollars, a major portion of her wealth, to Carrie Chapman Catt to further the cause of woman suffrage.

Happy Birthday, Miriam Folline Leslie!

One Response

  1. Nate Levin June 10, 2016 at 5:15 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for this fine write up. According to some accounts, this enabled Catt to win the “battle of the purse” with Anna Howard Shaw, so that Catt took over the leadership of NAWSA in the crucial period 1916-1920. Others say that Shaw just wanted to step down. Shaw stayed involved and was a loyal supporter until her death in 1919. There are many different accounts as to whether, or to what extent, Catt and Shaw were rivals.

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