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She has been called the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman."

She exists as both a fictional character and as a flesh-and-blood human being. But who is she, really? Why do women become mistresses, and what is it like to have a private life that is usually also a secret life? Is a mistress merely a wife-in-waiting, or is she the ver y definition of the emancipated, independent female? Elizabeth Abbott intelligently examines the motives and morals of some of history's most infamous and fascinating women, from antiquity to today. Drawing intimate portraits of those who have--by chance, coercion, or choice--assumed this complex role, Mistresses offers a rich blend of personal biography and cultural insight.

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