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New York City, the Roaring Twenties and a Madam for the Powerful

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Date and time
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Two Pulitzer Prize winning authors meet for an illustrated presentation and discussion of the latest work from historian Debby Applegate, “Madam: The Biography of Polly, Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age.” It's the story of a notorious madam who played hostess to gangsters, politicians, writers, sports stars and Cafe Society swells. As much as any single figure at that time, Pearl "Polly" Adler helped make the twenties roar. Debby Applegate is a historian and biographer based in New Haven, CT. Her first book, “The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher,” won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biography and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. Joining Applegate is John Matteson, a Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of “A Worse Place Than Hell: How the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg Changed a Nation”; “The Lives of Margaret Fuller,” and “Eden’s Outcasts,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in biography.

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Debby Applegate spent 20 years researching and writing about Henry Ward Beecher. She first discovered Beecher as an undergraduate in the college archives at Amherst College, where she graduated summa cum laude. She continued her work on the preacher as a Sterling Fellow at Yale, where she earned her Ph.D. in American Studies. Her research over these years spanned from the American Revolution to the Gilded Age, and took her to scores of historical archives and scholarly libraries across the country, from tiny country libraries to ivy-league institutions to the damp basements of elderly Beecher descendants. Her first book, *The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher*, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named one of the best books of 2006 by the *New York Times Book Review*, NPR's Fresh Air, *Washington Post*, *Seattle Times*, *Chicago Tribune*, *San Francisco Chronicle*, and *American Heritage Magazine*. Debby has taught at Yale and Wesleyan Universities and currently teaches a master class on writing biography and memoir at the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College in New York. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband, the business writer Bruce Tulgan, and serves on the governing boards of the New Haven Review, the Yale Summer Cabaret and the Friends of the Amherst College Library.
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John Matteson is a Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the editor of “The Annotated Little Women.” He received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for “Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father” and the Ann M. Sperber Prize for “The Lives of Margaret Fuller.” A
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