So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America

Victoria Woodhull was one of the most outrageous and influential of the 19th century social reformers of the United States. Yet today many people do not know who she is.

This book, which is based on Amanda Frisken's doctoral dissertation, takes a detailed look at the most important period of Woodhull's career while glossing over the periods before and after. Another interesting aspect of the work is that it uses primarily the reports published in men's illustrated newspapers of the time, called sporting news, as a source. Other sources are used to provide a rich and detailed picture of Woodhull's life, beliefs, and activities, but the unique perspective of this work comes from this original use of these popular newspapers as a source for images and opinions about Woodhull.

There may be better biographies that look at her whole life, but for those interested in Woodhull's impact on the USA, this is a great book to read. Included are her free love sexual philosophy, her campaign for president of the United States, her brokerage firm on Wall Street, her newspaper, her influence on American socialism, and her leadership of the Spiritualism community. There are tons of footnotes, but the text can be read without reference to them, so it has relevance to both the popular and the scholarly reader.


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