Debby Applegate

debby applegate author
Photo credit: Beth Dixson

Debby Applegate is a historian and obsessive reader whose first book, The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2007 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, NPR’s Fresh Air, the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and American Heritage Magazine

The Most Famous Man in America was an unconventional portrait of an unconventional minister and antislavery activist whose celebrity rivalled Ralph Waldo Emerson and Abraham Lincoln. With her second book, Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age, she plunged from the world of virtue to the underbelly of vice. It took thirteen years of immersion in the archives to research and write and – to give fair warning to all readers — is much racier than the first.  

Born and raised to be a proud Oregonian, Debby moved back east to attend Amherst College, where she met her husband, the management writer and consultant Bruce Tulgan. She was a Sterling Fellow in American Studies at Yale University, where she earned her Ph.D., and now lives in New Haven, Connecticut where she continues to haunt the stacks of the Yale Library. 

Debby is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles and has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal among other publications.  She has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan University, and Marymount College; served on the boards of organizations including the Yale Summer Cabaret, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and the New Haven Review, and is the chair of Biographers International Advisory Council.  She has spoken many times as a panelist, book club guest and keynote presenter and is available for speaking engagements.