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Desire and Duty at Oneida: Tirzah Miller's Intimate Memoir Hardcover – April 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253336937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253336934
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,419,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Johnna J. Adams on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was a fascinating glimpse into the Oneida community and an amazing find.
Tirzah Miller is the niece (and lover) of community founder John Humphrey Noyes and has access to the real inner circle of community leadership. You follow her various lovers (the marriage had 200 members and they practiced a form of 'complex' marriage that left Tirzah with MANY suitors) and the trials and tribulations of her love life in intimate detail. There are curious omissions in the memoir (which Fogarty points out in his thorough introduction)-- she doesn't chronicle the birth of her first child George (the offspring of one of her other uncles, born without the sanction of marriage leader Noyes) nor the death of the father of George's father (George, Sr. dies before the baby is born). You are not sure whether this was an omission on Tirzah's part or an omission made by the descendents who released the memoir to the public (more likely it was the descedents given Tirzah's candid style). And there are several gaps in the journal where Tirzah was working on the community newsletter and stopped writing. These omissions frustrate the reader a little, but obviously there is nothing Fogarty can do about it, except speculate on the reasons behind the omissions in the introduction and provide missing background info which compensates somewhat.
The material that Tirzah did choose to write about is both poignant and sensational! Not only was her uncle an avid promoter of incestuous relationships (he felt the devil was behind social mores prohibiting this), but she chronicles several other outlandish suggestions John Humphrey Noyes makes for improving the community sex life (like, live sex acts performed during the religious meetings- a plan he never actually implemented).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Being from Oneida myself, I have always had a special interest in this subject. I found that the most helpful elements in this book were the introduction and the notes following the diary entries of Tirzah. Without reviewing these notes before hand, it might be difficult to understand who many of the people are that the diaries refer to, as well as many of the locations mentioned. It seems almost unreal when reading this memoir that such a colony ever existed, it seems almost impossible that such people could live these lives, and that John Noyes had so much control over every aspect of these people's lives. I very much enjoyed this book and believe that it is highly worth reading, more so people from this particular area.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
We can now read the memoir of a woman who lived in the famous Oneida community of the nineteenth century and did her best to live up to its principles. Tirzah Miller was born in 1843, and her unique memoir, published as _Desire and Duty at Oneida: Tirzah Miller's Intimate Memoir_, edited by Robert S. Fogarty (Indiana University Press), gives us a view of how some very strange sexual principles were practiced under Biblical inspiration. Miller's memoir was part of the Oneida archives, which were opened in 1993, and are fully printed here for the first time. There is useful editorial introduction and notes to prepare a reader for much of Miller's descriptions. Miller was the most important figure among the younger generation at Oneida, which had been founded by her uncle John N. Noyes, a prophet of "Perfectionism" which, among other things, entailed shared sexual relations in order to make jealousy impossible, and even planned breeding of humans to bring out the best traits in the young.
Tirzah Miller was involved in this sort of breeding, and writes about her participation. Her memoir tells about her doubts about Noyes, doubts which were always soothed by prayer so that she continued within the community. She was Noyes's favorite sexual partner, but had longings for others, and acted on them. Among the difficulties this caused was that there must not be any sort of "special love" analogous to marriage. Miller writes quite a bit about how she has to avoid this, and about her quarrels with Noyes, and about her liaisons with other community members.
Miller's memoir breaks off during the tumultuous end of the community.
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