Strong Passions: A Scandalous Divorce in Old New York


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

In 1862, Mary Strong stunned her husband, Peter, the scion of a wealthy and influential family, by confessing to a two-year affair with his brother. Peter sued Mary for divorce, but not before she accused him of forcing her into an abortion and having an affair with the abortionist. Then Mary kidnapped their youngest child. New York-based writer Barbara Weisberg recounts the true story of the Strongs’ tumultuous marriage, explosive divorce, and riveting trial that included an array of witnesses from all walks of life and clashing versions of events. Through the drama of the Strong family saga, Weisberg illuminates laws and attitudes related to marriage, gender, and sexuality in the world of Edith Wharton’s “old New York” and highlights issues of women’s rights and freedoms argued at the trial and relevant now.


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 that exposed upper-crust New York society and its secrets. 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 nineteenth-century 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 on Allen Ginsberg’s nomination. 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 from the American Antiquarian Society to pursue her research on the Fox sisters. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Authors Guild, Biographers International. She was elected to AAS membership in October 1998.