This article explores the posthumous writings on Civil War period actress and poet Adah Isaacs Menken in order to examine the intersection of identity politics and the use of historical hearsay in scholarship. It investigates why and how particular stories persist and even expand in the absence of "hard" evidence. While Menken was known under many guises during the height of her national and international stardom, 1861–68, she is now arguably most famous as a Jewish or African-American poet, and is becoming an increasingly popular figure in transgender and lesbian studies. Although little primary evidence exists to corroborate these identities, this article suggests that the intersection of identity politics and historical accuracy is complicated enough to make such studies compelling and worthwhile investigations into cultural history—even if results can never be accepted as more than speculative.


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pp. 120-151
Launched on MUSE
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