Hortensia's Reviews > American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century

American Moderns by Christine Stansell
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's review
Jun 13, 2010

bookshelves: sexuality
Read from June 12 to 13, 2010

Stansell presents a long, biographically-driven story of the "intelligentsia" of the Left wing lifestyle politics-- the Bohemians who would become Greenwich Villagers over time--the people who were movers and shakers behind the idealization of New Woman discussions before the New Woman of the 1920s became widely popular. This was a world of free love (open marriages, marriages of non-cohabitation, and others cohabitating and not marriage) and of IWW advocacy, and generally of disobedience before the Protestant/Victorian sexual and political standards of what is and is not appropriate to talk about (politically and sexually). She calls these people the "moderns," since they ushered in a new set of discussions about sexuality (birth control, reproductive control) and politics of the Left/ critique of capitalism and government.

This is the world of Hutchins Hapgood, Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, and others who went back and forth between seeing themselves as the marginalized and seeing themselves as in alliance with the marginalized/ working on their behalf.

The book is not thesis driven--much more biographical/ story driven. Sections of it can be assigned as light reading for undergraduates (one chapter at a time, perhaps biographically), but not the whole thing.

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