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Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York
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Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,273 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
Post–Civil War New York City is the battleground of the American dream. In this era of free love, emerging rights of women, and brutal sexual repression, Freydeh, a spirited young Jewish immigrant, toils at different jobs to earn passage to America for her family. Learning that her younger sister is adrift somewhere in the city, she begins a determined search that carries ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 21st 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published November 22nd 2005)
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Mar 30, 2008 Marigold rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2011 Cat rated it it was ok
This book addresses a fascinating fifty year period and with admirable feminist verve. Following the lives of women from various walks of life but equal commitment to furthering their autonomy and their political and economic goals, Sex Wars features fascinating characters from free love spiritualist and first woman to run for U.S. president Victoria Woodhull to notorious and successful abortionist "Madame Restell," to those founding mothers of the American women's movement, Elizabeth Cady Stant ...more
Cecilia Solis-sublette
Jan 25, 2011 Cecilia Solis-sublette rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one though it's not a book for the faint-hearted, I would guess. Here, the author tells the personal history of women that drove the womens' rights movement in the United States and those who opposed them. Intermixed, is the story of a woman searching for her sister who ends up going into business for herself by manufacturing condoms. What I found most interesting about the account is the histories of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhall, Anthony Comstock, a ...more
May 24, 2008 YoSafBridg rated it liked it
I was first introduced to Marge Piercy by a grad school roommate and i tore through all the books i could find written by Piercy up to that point. I just discovered Sex Wars: A Novel of the Gilded Age New York covering the lives of early suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and (the seemingly more likable, tho less famous) Elizabeth Cady Stanton; sensationalistic (first female presidential candidate) Victoria Woodhull and her rather colorful family; the fictional Jewish immigrant Freydeh Levin; as well ...more
Tara Chevrestt
I struggled thru the first half of this novel. Kept telling myself it would get better. It didn't. After being introduced to a religious zealot that I had absolutely no interest in (actually started skipping his chapters) and Victoria Woodhull (portrayed as a scam artist and early day hippie,) I hit part two and finally called it quits. Why? Not only was I not enjoying or getting a feel for any of its characters (the exception being the Russian immigrant Freydeh. She alone has kept this novel fr ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, american
Different title, different cover would serve this book better. Piercy covered a lot of ground in this European immigration story. Birth control, women's voting rights, poverty, and survival all mixed up in the teeming city of New York in the late 1800s. Piercy jumps from story to story, character to character, and moves time up and back. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Vanderbilt, Sanger, Woodhull as well as fictional characters tell about this turbulent time. I found it interesting an ...more
Nancy Ferreyra
Nov 25, 2008 Nancy Ferreyra rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. History unfolding in a novel format. I read it around the time of all the election madness and it was a good reminder of how far we've come, which gave me hope.
Susan Emmet
Nov 28, 2011 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it
Got to this book via Joyce Carol Oates. It's a roller coaster and the timing is sometimes confusing as Piercy skips around between and among years, primarily focused on the 1870s during the Gilded Age.
Freydah Levin, a Jewish immigrant from the Pale, is sort of the focus. She comes to NY with her husband Moishe (who soon dies in an accident)and "adopts" three Jewish street children who remain faithful to her. She manufactures condoms in their tenement apartment and sells to local pharmacies and b
Apr 05, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women, fans of historical novels
Sex Wars: A Novel Of Gilded Age New York, Marge Piercy. Piercy's novel explores the formative years of feminism through the intersecting lives of four characters. Three of them -- proto-feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, free love advocate Victoria Woodhull, and moralist Anthony Comstock -- were pivotal players in the gender wars of the late 19th Century. The fourth character, the fictional Freydeh Leibowitz, is a young Russian-Jewish widow searching among the tenements for her lost sister while t ...more
Jan 20, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Totally fascinating historical novel starring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, the evil Anthony Comstock and the heretofore-unknown-to-me Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States, in 1872. Well-researched and dramatic, it shines light into the lives of these feminist heroines as well as the notorious Society for the Suppression of Vice head-jerk Comstock, who was responsible for throwing hundreds of people into jail, costing people their lives, and con ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Paula rated it it was amazing
This was a captivating work of historical fiction taking place mostly in New York City during the Gilded Age, and focusing on women and their role in late 19th century society. The novel is about one fictional character, a Jewish immigrant woman, whose story is interwoven with those of feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Victoria Woodhall, among others, and the conservative fundamentalist and anti-feminist zealot crusder Anthony Comstock. Great insights the free-thinkers of t ...more
Lauren Cordes
Mar 15, 2007 Lauren Cordes rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every woman should read this!
Shelves: haveread
This book was really amazing. It made me realize we women had NO rights back in the day; we were property of our husbands. If we worked all our money went to our husbands and if you weren't married you were constantly working hard labor making very little money to survive.

The book takes place from the 1860's through the early 1900s. I really loved it because it is an historic fictional book almost entirely about how women lived and tried to fight for their rights in New York City. Some of the f
Jul 15, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
Who owns the film rights to this? Because if I were HBO or Showtime, I'd be adapting this novel for a TV series RIGHT NOW. It's like a Gilded Age Masters of Sex combined with Boardwalk Empire. I want to see these characters on TV. And soon. I think now is the moment for this story. As the Feminist movement gains some traction, the forces of Puritanism push back viciously. Wait - is this now or then?

Victoria Woodhull is one of the most interesting historical figures I'd never really heard of and
Nov 30, 2015 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Very mixed feelings about this book. I love historical fiction, and there were some absolutely fascinating details about New York in the latter half of the nineteenth century - how society operated, the different nationalities within it, and even about the developing cityscape and shops.

The blurb on my edition for some reason only referred to one character, but in fact the narrative switches between several, mostly women. I found the details about how women of different classes lived, and the fi
May 07, 2014 Monika rated it liked it
Raamatu tegevus toimub 1860ndate aastate New Yorgis, kodusõja järgses Ameerikas, mil naised olid igasuguste õigusteta ning oma abikaasa omandiks. Autor esitab nii naiste õiguste eest seisjate (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony ja Victoria Woodhull) kui vastaste (Anthony Comstock) seisukohad läbi ajalooliselt tuntud inimeste. Iga peatüki jutustaja on erinev isik. Stiili poolest jääb see kuhugi eluloo ja ilukirjanduse vahepeale.
Elisabethi ja Susani osad olid natuke igavalt kirjutatud, jääb
Dec 19, 2015 Jane rated it liked it
I would actually rate this book a 3.5. I haven't read much about the post civil war period and the women's suffrage movement at that time.

I found it fascinating to read about the real life movement leaders such as Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhull. Victoria's story is especially fascinating because her background is so incongruous with what she became.

My problem with the book was its writing. The writing about the real life characters was somewhat stilted and boring. Y
Jun 07, 2007 Christina rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs
Boy howdy, there sure were a lot of hookers during the Victorian/Edwardian era. And free love advocates, suffragettes, and home condom manufacturers.

Enjoyable historical fiction, with slightly stilted dialog. Read it in a public place and get strange looks.
Aug 27, 2015 Judi rated it really liked it
I was concerned when I started this book that it would be a very radical, feminist "manifesto", but what I got was a fascinating account of the very interesting lives of the women (and one man) on the forefront of the women's movement in the mid-19th century. What I really liked about this book was the way Piercy humanized each of these women because it made me "listen" to what they were saying and to how they were living. It actually outraged me more about the condition of women than if the boo ...more
3.5/5 stars. The characters were three-dimensional and you root for them throughout the entire novel, but oftentimes Piercy's writing comes across very stiff and formal, especially in some scenes that should be emotionally stirring. A scene that really should have made me cry (because I always cry at stuff like that) was written with such short, stiff, formal sentences that it was like I was reading a police report instead of a novel. She also tends to use anachronistic language that jolts you o ...more
Interesting historical perspective. Juggling flat characters became tedious.
Jan 02, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it
This was an engrossing story of life in New York Post-Civil-War. Chapters alternated among a Jewish immigrant family, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (with a lot of information about her friendship with Susan B. Anthony), Victoria Woodhull, and Anthony Comstock (a crusader against obscenity). The author handled the timeline masterfully - starting in the 1870's, moving backward, then forward again. I expected the story lines to merge a bit more forcefully, but overall, this was a detailed look at the nasc ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Heather rated it really liked it
This book is almost a series of biographies of interesting women from the 1860-1900 who were exploring different aspects of freedom for women. I especially enjoyed the story of the young widow living in the Yiddish tenements in New York City and her descriptions of what conditions were like for immigrants. I would recommend this book to those who like historical fiction. I cannot for the life of me understand why she called it Sex Wars because it really doesn't capture what the book is about, at ...more
Mar 09, 2016 Sheri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I was riveted by this book, as a novel, I'm only giving it three stars for a couple of reasons. The fictitious part of the story was okay, but not great. And, the author jumped around in time too much. As a literary device, this worked well in the beginning of the book. But once I knew the backstory of the main characters, I think the book would have been a better read if it had been told chronologically. I had to flip back several times to figure out, "What year are we supposed to b ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A historical novel of the early days of the women's movement, this book follows the exploits of four groups of people, only one of which was wholly fictional. The narrative covers the period just after the civil war, and concentrates on the period of the Grant presidency. There are Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennie Claflin, free thinkers and pioneers in that they were the first women to open a wall street brokerage and Victoria ran for president in 1872. They aligned themselves with the w ...more
Andrea Dowd
Jan 13, 2009 Andrea Dowd rated it it was amazing
I was very impressed by this novel by Marge Piercy. I originally picked it up because the title was fun (I'm a bit naughty, I know) but I was amazed by all the work that went into creating a fictional life based on real players in the changing tide of women's rights, immigrant's struggles, and censorship laws.

The story revolves around Freyda, a Russian Jew barely surviving in the tenements of New York. She adopts street children in danger of dying every single day, searches for her sister who ar
Aug 19, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
Fictionalized account of Gilded Age New York, roughly 1870's, in the battle for women's suffrage. Each chapter is told from one of four characters viewpoints: Victoria Woodhull (spiritualist, stockbroker, and first female candidate for president), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (leader in the suffrage movement), Anthony Comstock (early crusader against pornography whose censorship laws still stand today), and the fictional Freydeh Levin (Jewish immigrant to New York City). The first three characters are ...more
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Dec 20, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brianna Wright
Aug 25, 2012 Brianna Wright rated it did not like it
I really wish the STAR rating on this thing had negative numbers because this book would definitely fall under a HORRIBLE category. I made it a whole 30 pages before I was ready to throw this thing in a blazing fire. The stories were intriguing, but I could not read another word of a manuscript that seemed as if it went straight from being written to being published.

In just the few pages I read, the author constantly repeated EVERYTHING! At one point, two of the characters are drinking two diffe
Feb 06, 2010 Keri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jen, Mom
This book was a fictional look at womens suffrage in the 1870s. It followed 4 stories that were woven in and out of one another. Some of the stories were based on actual persons (Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony to name a few) and one was based on a totally fictional person. Oddly, when asked in my book group which story was best liked, most of us chose the fictional character.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading about the early "free-thinkers" upon whose shoulders I stand. These women
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Marge Piercy (born March 31, 1936) is an American poet, novelist, and social activist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers, a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.

Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression. She was the first in her family to attend college, studying at the University of Michigan. Winning a
More about Marge Piercy...

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