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

Sex Wars by Marge Piercy
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's review
Jan 05, 2009

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 arrived without her knowledge, and making a better life for her make-shift family by making condoms.

Then there is Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President, a spiritualist, and one of the first major female stock brokers. Piercy does such a fantastic job putting her life together that I must learn more about this amazing woman who also, came from nothing.

Piercy also takes a look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and their fight to make women's lives better through obtaining the right to vote, to use contraceptives, and to live the best life possible. While much is known about these women, the author makes their friendship fresh and less academic than in most texts.

And finally, Anthony Cumstock, the mad responsible for many of the censorship laws still in our system, including the mailing of pornographic materials through the U.S. Postal system. The author (of course) does not paint him in the best light, but who would?

Read this book for a fictionalized tale of the women's movement during post-Civil War America and post-Industrial Revolution New York.


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