KU News Release


October 26, 2012
Contact: Victor Bailey, Hall Center for the Humanities, 785-864-7822

Historian, KU alumna to unravel mystery of famous photographer’s suicide

Natalie Dykstra


LAWRENCE — Natalie Dykstra, associate professor of English at Hope College, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Her lecture, "Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life,” is based on Dykstra’s newest book of the same name, which received high praise from The New York Times, Booklist and the Wall Street Journal. The book explores a fascinating historical character’s mysterious suicide.

The event is free and open to the public, with a reception and book signing to follow. The is event is sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities.

An informal conversation, intended for a graduate student audience, will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in the Hall Center’s downstairs Seminar Room. Students from any discipline are welcome to attend.

Clover Adams, a fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin, married at 28 the soon-to-be-eminent American historian Henry Adams. She thrived in her role as an intimate of power brokers in Gilded Age Washington, where such luminaries as Henry James, H. H. Richardson and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman admired her for her wit and taste.

Yet at the center of her story is a haunting mystery. Why did Clover, having begun in the spring of 1883 to capture her world vividly through photography, end her life less than three years later by drinking a chemical developer she used in the darkroom?

The key to the mystery lies, as Dykstra’s searching account makes clear, in Clover’s photographs themselves. The aftermath of Clover’s death is equally compelling. Dykstra probes Clover’s enduring reputation as a woman betrayed.

Dykstra has received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for her work on Clover Adams. She is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and associate professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Mich. When not teaching, she lives with her husband in Waltham, Mass. Dykstra received her doctorate in American studies from KU.



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