Margaret Leech (1893–1974) was an American novelist, biographer, and historian. She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for History and one of only two people to win it twice, first in 1942 for Reveille in Washington and again in 1960 for In the Days of McKinley (for which she also won the Bancroft Prize). Leech was born in Newburgh, New York, and graduated from Vassar College in 1915. She then moved to New York City, where she found work in the advertising and publicity departments of Condé Nast. Following World War I, she served on the American Committee for Devastated France and took up journalism and fiction, eventually publishing three novels, The Back of the Book (1924), Tin Wedding (1926), and The Feathered Nest (1928), before turning to history. A member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table, where she was known for her sharp tongue, she collaborated with Heywood Broun on a biography of Anthony Comstock (1927) and with Beatrice Kaufman on a play, Divided by Three (1934). In 1928 Leech married Ralph Pulitzer, editor and publisher of The New York World. At the time of her death Leech had begun work on a new history, The Garfield Orbit. Completed by Harry J. Brown, the book appeared in 1978.
This Pulitzer Prize–winning view of Washington during the Civil War forgoes the battlefield to focus on the daily life, political intrigues, and social currents of the young capital. Leech brings to life extravagant dinner parties, saloon backrooms, makeshift barracks, and White House halls. “Packed and running over with the anecdotes, scandals, personalities, and tragi-comedies of the day.” —The New Yorker