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

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,017 ratings  ·  199 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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Marigold
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cecilia Solis-sublette
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
Cat
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
YoSafBridg
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
Nancy Ferreyra
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.
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
Lauren Cordes
Mar 15, 2007 Lauren Cordes rated it 5 of 5 stars 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...more
Mark
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
S.
This book is absolutely fantastic and put me in a fuming rage at the same time.
Because I had never heard of Victoria Woodhull.
It took a fictionalized account of her life to put me onto her.

I am still scandalized at how women just get scuffed out of history with a penis shaped eraser.

It puts me in mind of Phryne, the top courtesan of Greek fame, who was accused of profaning the Eulysian mysteries and brought to court for it.
As an argumant the orater who helped defend her got her to disrobe and sw...more
Susan Emmet
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...more
Christine
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
Paula
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
Monika
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...more
Christina
Jun 07, 2007 Christina rated it 3 of 5 stars 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.
Colleen
Interesting historical perspective. Juggling flat characters became tedious.
HeavyReader
I enjoy Marge Piercy’s novels, so I mooched this one on BookMooch without knowing what it was about.

I was delighted when I found the main characters to be (mostly) historic figures (Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Anthony Comstock).

I enjoyed the character’s stories, especially during the brief periods when the stories overlapped and characters got to interact.

The life I found most compelling was of Freydah, the Jewish immigrant making a life in the rough slums of Ne...more
Andrea
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
Andrea Dowd
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...more
Lisa
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
Christina
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Rebecca
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Paul
Apr 05, 2008 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars 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
Brianna Wright
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...more
Keri
Feb 06, 2010 Keri rated it 4 of 5 stars 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...more
Bucket
I loved this story for about the first half of the book. Despite the fact that I'd be taken out of the story every time it switched characters, I was engaged by all four story lines, so I happily fell right back into the story after the jolting switch. However, somewhere between half and three-quarters of the way through the book, things began to move faster and faster. Piercy began to gloss over events, describe instead of show, and generally move from novel-style writing to biography-style wri...more
CJ
I have loved Marge Piercy since I had to read Woman on the Edge of Time for a Women's Studies class in college. One of my favorites is Gone to Soldiers which is a multi-protagonist story set during World War II.

Sex Wars is also a multi-protagonist story set during the closing years of the 19th century in New York city. If you've ever read any women's history, you've heard of the major players (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, and Anthony Comstock). While the book was easy to read and i...more
Karen
Books that keep me thinking long after I have finished the last page get more stars from me. Although I don't agree with all that these true characters thought and did, I believe that they made a (mostly positive) difference in U.S. history. I knew a little about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but glad that the author really brought them alive in this work of historical fiction. I checked and learned that the facts of their actions are correct and that their writings show the feeli...more
Joyce
Marge Piercy knows how to find the facts and craft a mesmerizing story around them. The setting is the last half of the 19th century New York, the topic is sex, gender and economics and the cast of characters include real people we all know a little about with a few fictitious ones thrown in for emphasis. There's Elizabeth Cady Stanton - intelligent, mother of 7, freethinking, irreligious and very sensual; Susan B. Anthony - straight laced, strictly moral, a fierce supporter of marriage though u...more
courtney
parts of this are beautifully written, parts are way too didactic... i loved the way the novel follows these disparate characters and how their lives all eventually intertwine... but there were many times when i felt like i was getting the same information again and again. it is not as sophisticated a novel as i would have liked: there was a lot of expository dialogue and some moments that were far too "clever."

all that said, it was very engrossing and told a very important story. it opened my e...more
Jae
I liked this book a lot, although I had my usual Marge Piercy issue with it -- I liked the characters, setting and story a lot, but I found the prose a little lacking. The Sex Wars in question were the feminism and free love moments in post-Civil War New York, with the book centering at various times on free love activist (and first woman presidential candidate) Victoria Woodhull, feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and censorship poobah Anthony Comstock. The look at NYC of th...more
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Marge Piercy is an American poet, novelist, and social activist.
More about Marge Piercy...
Woman on the Edge of Time He, She and It Gone to Soldiers The Moon Is Always Female: Poems City of Darkness, City of Light

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