Christine's Reviews > Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York

Sex Wars by Marge Piercy
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's review
Jan 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: novels
Read from January 12 to 20, 2011

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 confiscating many tons of "obscene" material, including condoms, women's health pamphlets, and birth control.

Woodhull was a feminist and in many ways a radical: she lived her life and spoke passionately on the principles of "free love" - that women as well as men should have the ability to choose their lovers as they pleased without threat of social or physical consequence. She was divorced and remarried at the time of her fame (scandalous to most at the time, even though her first husband was a good-for-nothing drunk who beat her), was spiritual guide to Commodore Vanderbilt (she was a spiritualist and medium), and was the first woman to operate as a stock broker - on Wall Street, no less! A fascinating character, she nevertheless retreated from New York in shame and scandal after Comstock got through with her - she and her sister served a year in the notorious Tombs for publication of obscene material, and underwent several subsequent trials where her public credibility was shattered. Nevertheless she bounced back, moved to London, and lived out the rest of her life in the English countryside, after remarrying again to some rich dude over there. She was a feminist to the end. Go Victoria Woodhull! What a crime that you have been all but erased from history.
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