Join us at 6pm on Monday, June 27th for a reading and conversation with Diane C. McPhail, author of The Seamstress of New Orleans. Set in 1900 as the Suffrage Movement was gathering steam across the country, this new historical novel from the acclaimed author of The Abolitionist's Daughter revolves around two very different women fated to meet in the jasmine-scented humidity of the French Quarter amidst preparations for the first all-female krewe, Les Mysterieuses, to take the reins at that year’s Mardi Gras. It’s a richly detailed story that weaves the history of Mardi Gras and women’s rights with the unlikely kinship between two women riding on the cusp of societal change, the secrets they must hide, and the glittering gown that binds them together.
This event is free and open to all, but save your copy of the book and your seat with a ticket at the link!
Against the backdrop of the first all-female Mardi Gras krewe in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, Diane McPhail’s mesmerizing historical novel tells of two strangers separated by background but bound by an unexpected secret—and of the strength and courage women draw from and inspire in each other.
“An undercurrent of New Orleans’s dark side propels the story, heightening the tension and supplying McPhail with a wealth of evocative details.” – Publishers Weekly
The year 1900 ushers in a new century and the promise of social change, and women rise together toward equality. Yet rules and restrictions remain, especially for women like Alice Butterworth, whose husband has abruptly disappeared. Desperate to make a living for herself and the child she carries, Alice leaves the bitter cold of Chicago far behind, offering sewing lessons at a New Orleans orphanage.
Constance Halstead, a young widow reeling with shock under the threat of her late husband’s gambling debts, has thrown herself into charitable work. Meeting Alice at the orphanage, she offers lodging in exchange for Alice’s help creating a gown for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the first all‑female krewe of Mardi Gras. During Leap Years, women have the rare opportunity to take control in their interactions with men, and upend social convention. Piece by piece, the breathtaking gown takes shape, becoming a symbol of strength for both women, reflecting their progress toward greater independence.
But Constance carries a burden that makes it impossible to feel truly free. Her husband, Benton, whose death remains a dangerous mystery, was deep in debt to the Black Hand, the vicious gangsters who controled New Orleans’ notorious Storyville district. Benton’s death has not satisfied them. And as the Mardi Gras festivities reach their fruition, a secret emerges that will cement the bond between Alice and Constance even as it threatens the lives they’re building . . .
Diane C. McPhail is an artist, writer, and minister. In addition to holding an M.F.A., an M.A., and D.Min., she has studied at the University of Iowa distance learning and the Yale Writers’ Workshop, among others. Diane is a member of North Carolina Writers' Network and the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Highlands, North Carolina, with her husband, and her dog, Pepper.