John Wilkes Booth Was A Sex-Crazed Playboy, Says New Book

Published April 24, 2018
Updated March 12, 2024

According to a new book, John Wilkes Booth was dating five different women at the time he was shot.

Wilkes Booth Women

Amazon / John Wilkes Booth and the Women Who Loved Him book cover; Maggie Mitchell, Fanny Brown, and Helen Western

Apparently, the expression is true: Everyone loves a bad boy. At least, according to a new book on Abraham Lincoln‘s assassin, it is. John Wilkes Booth and the Women Who Love Him written by E. Lawrence Abel and published on April 8, 2018, chronicles the women (and there were many) who were lovers or intense admirers of John Wilkes Booth.

After Booth shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865, he was a fugitive for 12 days before he himself was killed by U.S. troops. When he died all that was found on him was a compass, a candle, and a diary with pictures of five women.

According to the book, these five women were all romantically involved with the 26-year-old actor at the time. Four of the women, Fanny Brown (hailed as “the most beautiful woman on the American stage” at the time), Alice Gray, Effie Germon, and Helen Western, were actresses. The fifth was Lucy Lambert Hale, Booth’s alleged fiance as well as the daughter of Lincoln’s ambassador to Spain.

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But the five women were just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Booth’s love affairs. The rest of the book gives an account of his relationships with almost two dozen women, including other actresses, high-class prostitutes, and fans.

Twice he caused jealousy between siblings. The first sibling duo was Helen and Lucille Western, who called themselves the “Star Sisters” and were famed for their scandalous cross-dressing act. Helen became involved with Booth during a two-week performance they put on together in Portland, Maine. Jealous of her sister’s relationship with Booth, Lucille quit the “Star Sisters” act and the two never performed together again.

The second set of siblings broken up by Booth’s irresistibility was Henrietta and Marie Irving. The two sisters were touring together in Albany, N.Y. when Booth began seeing Henrietta. However, one night Henrietta caught him sneaking out of Marie’s hotel room.

Full of rage, she slashed Booth’s face with a dagger in an attempt to stab him (Imagine the historical implications if she had succeeded). She then stabbed herself instead.

Even Booth’s assassination of President Lincoln and his own death didn’t deter the women who were enamored with him. One of the most successful New York actresses, Maggie Mitchell, admitted decades later that she had kept a lock of his hair. She called it “the loveliest hair in the world.”

If you found this article interesting, next check out these 45 presidential facts even history nerds won’t know. Then read about the four men who killed U.S presidents .

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College and hosts a podcast for Puna Press.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Goldfarb, Kara. "John Wilkes Booth Was A Sex-Crazed Playboy, Says New Book.", April 24, 2018, Accessed May 26, 2024.