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THE GILDED CAGE

Released on April 18, 2016

Life among the rich may be deceptive. Theirs was the ideal marriage of wealth and society—and yet was it? Potter gave huge sums institutions like the University of Chicago; Cissy joined women’s rights groups, went into shanty areas to bring necessities when crises hit, worked at Jane Addams’ famous Hull House. She put philanthropy into action, all under the questioning gaze of the man she adored. Cissy loved going to parties; Potter, much her senior, preferred staying home. Was she ripe for attraction to another man? Would the conventions of her upbringing hold her back? Would she honor her love and duty to Potter?

This amazing couple lived their lives against the backdrop of Chicago’s dramatic history—the Great Fire of 1871, the Haymarket Riot, the Columbian Exposition which brought international intellects and artists of all kinds to Chicago. They traveled to New York and Europe frequently, their lives seemingly indulgent and satisfying.


From the back of the book:

The Gilded Cage is a wonderful recreation of early Chicago and the people who made it what it is. Central character Cissy Palmer is a three-dimensional, real, vibrant person. The Gilded Cage is fiction, but firmly based on fact—the Chicago Fire, the prisoners from the War Between the States interred in Chicago, the newcomer Potter Palmer, the explosive growth of wealth in a prairie town, deep poverty adjacent to great riches—the American experience laid bare. You don’t have to be a Chicagoan to love this book.

—Barbara D’Amato, author of Other Eyes


Born to a society and a life of privilege, Bertha Honoré married Potter Palmer, a wealthy entrepreneur who called her Cissy. Neither dreamed the direction the other’s life would take. He built the Palmer House Hotel, still famed today, and become one of the major robber barons of the city, giving generously to causes of which he approved. She put philanthropy into deeds, going into shanty neighborhoods, inviting factory girls to her home, working at Jane Addams’ settlement Hull House, supporting women’s causes.

It was a time of tremendous change and conflict in Chicago as the city struggled to put its swamp-water beginnings behind it and become a leading urban center. A time of the Great Fire of 1871, the Haymarket Riots, and the triumph of the Columbian Exposition. Potter and Cissy handled these events in diverse ways. Fascinating characters people these pages along with Potter and Cissy—Carter Harrison, frequent mayor of the city; Harry Collins, determined to be a loser; Henry Honoré, torn between loyalties to the South and North; Daniel Burnham, architect of the new Chicago—and many others.

The Gilded Cage is a fictional exploration of the lives of these people and of the Gilded Age in Chicago history.

Judy Alter is the award winning author of fiction for adults and young adults. Other historical fiction includes Libbie, the story of Elizabeth Bacon (Mrs. George Armstrong) Custer; Jessie, the story of Jessie Benton Frémont and her explorer / miner / entrepreneur / soldier / politician husband; Cherokee Rose, a novel loosely based on the life of the first cowgirl roper to ride in Wild West shows; and Sundance, Butch and Me, the adventures of Etta Place and the Hole in the Wall Gang.


Two excerpts from this book are available: Excerpt #1Excerpt #2