Female Reporter Broke Epic Congressional Sex Scandal—In 1850
A brave female journalist took on one of America’s most powerful senators in history. He lost the nomination, she lost her job.
In one of America’s first congressional sex scandals, a brave woman nervously publicized the open secret about “The Godlike” Sen. Daniel Webster’s sexual promiscuity—and, surprise!—got fired.
It was spring, 1850, and America was unraveling. Political arguments degenerated into personal insults, then escalated into permanent ruptures. The polarized country seemed to be suffering a nervous breakdown under a thin-skinned, aging, amateur president who had never held political office before and had never even voted for president before voting for himself.
Zachary Taylor’s America was splintering over slavery—with Jane Swisshelm’s help. As Congress debated what ultimately became the Compromise of 1850, this outspoken abolitionist journalist felt betrayed by the former secretary of State, perennial presidential hopeful, and magnificent orator, Massachusetts’ Sen. Daniel Webster. Disgusted by this Northern icon’s surrender to the Southern Slave Power, “sniffing” a “moral stench,” Swisshelm decided to publicize some hot gossip Washingtonians took as gospel.