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“Curious and Romantic Sensation”: The Leon A. Belmont Case of 1880

June 17, 2021 @ 7:00 pm 8:00 pm

In celebration of Pride month, join us for a discussion hosted by Katie Thornton, an award-winning multimedia journalist, Fulbright Fellow, and former Gale Research Fellow. She’ll be in conversation with Lizzie Ehrenhalt, author of the recent Minnesota History article “‘Curious and Romantic Sensation’: Sex, Fraud, and Celebrity in the Leon A. Belmont Case of 1880.”

Between October 30 and November 25, 1880, Twin Cities newspapers published more than five dozen articles on a scandal that came to be known as “the Belmont sensation.” In them, reporters wrestled with how to respond to a person they perceived to be a woman seducing other women and dressing in clothes they associated with men. Their conclusions shifted as the sensation went on, with some writers expressing outrage and others celebrating Belmont as a hero. Rather than cancel each other out, these conflicting feelings reinforced each other and created a modern celebrity icon in the mold of Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, and P. T. Barnum.

Lizzie Ehrenhalt is a public historian and the editor of MNopedia, the digital encyclopedia of Minnesota history. She has a master’s degree in archives management from the University of Michigan, a master’s certificate in museum studies from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in gender studies and Latin from Oberlin College. With Tilly Laskey, she is a co-editor of Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Whipple, 1890‒1918, (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019). In MNopedia, she is the author of, most recently, “Over the Rainbow: Queer and Trans History in Minnesota.”

This program will also be archived as a recording on Facebook and YouTube.


June 17
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
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