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Free Lover: Sex, Marriage and Eugenics in the Early Speeches of Victoria Woodhull Paperback – December 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This book is part of a series of books on the history of eugenics that includes G. K. Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils, one of the few books to criticize eugenics in the 1920s, as well as The Pivot of Civilization in Historical Perspective, Margaret Sanger's 1922 birth control bestseller with 31 additional chapters to explain the eugenic and race suicide context in which she wrote.

The companion volume to Free Lover is Lady Eugenist: Feminist Eugenics in the Speeches and Writings of Victoria Woodhull. It includes the full text of her most important published speeches in support of eugenics. These were, for the most part, later speeches with a more scientific foundation than those in Free Lover. The two books are best read together and followed by those by Chesterton and Sanger.

Lady Eugenist also suggests that there is evidence to support two ideas that are rarely, if ever, mentioned by the historians of eugenics. First, that eugenics in America had a different beginning than that in the U.K. It began before Charles Darwin's Origin of Species with radical 'free love' sects on the American frontier. Only later was its sexual mysticism replaced by more scientific ideas about eugenics. Second, Victoria Woodhull deserves at least as much of the credit for pioneering eugenics as Francis Galton. It was she who brought those radical free love ideas before a general audience, both in the U.S. and the U.K. And she did so almost thirty years before Francis Galton began to promote eugenics in earnest after 1900. You might even say that she retired from promoting eugenics before the movement's alleged but more cautious and respectable founder took up the cause.

For students and others in a hurry, most of these books are or will be available in a downloadable Adobe PDF ebook format that has no restrictions on printing.

From the Author

For those wonder what the relationship is between Victoria Woodhull as the author of most of this book's pages and myself as the author of the introductions to each of her four pamphlets, I'll just note that my purpose was to get people to think critically about her remarks. Woodhull was quite intelligent and a clever debater. I suggest ways readers can look beneath the surface to what she was really saying. And, since all her remarks are there in facsimile precisely as she published them, you can evaluate the fairness of my arguments for yourself.--Michael W. Perry

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Inkling Books (December 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587420503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587420504
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The writings of Michael W. Perry are many and varied. They range from an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's children's stories (Stories for Girls) to a scholarly 447-page look at the causes of World War II (Chesterton on War and Peace). He is the author of Untangling Tolkien, the only book-length, day-by-day chronology of The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed to encyclopedias on the writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R Tolkien, as well as the scandals of U.S. presidents (Presidential Scandals). His books have been translated into Polish (Klucz Do Tolkena) and Italian (Eugenetica e altri malanni).

Most recently, he's taking a look back at the experiences that shaped his life. Three books in the 'hospital series' look at what it was like to care for children with cancer (Nights with Leukemia) and teenagers (Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments), as well as a telling criticism of the legally sanctioned medical mistreatment given to an unfortunate teen-aged girl (Caria, The Girl Who Couldn't Say No).

That'll be followed by a series on politically driven hatred in America. The first in the series, tentatively named To Kill a Mockingbird Revisited, will describe what it was like to grow up in the South in the last days of segregation. The author grew up one-generation removed and some forty miles from the town described in Harper Lee's popular novel.

Partial Bibliography

* Assistant editor and major contributor: The C. S. Lewis Readers Encyclopedia (Zondervan, 1998), winner of the 1999 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book Award as the best biography/autobiography.

* Major contributor: Presidential Scandals (CQ Press, 1999).

* Editor of a research edition of G. K. Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils (2000) that was praised in by bestselling author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), who said that: "The editor of this editor of this edition has included may quotations from eugenicists of the 1920s, who read astonishingly like toe words of contemporary prophets of doom."

* Author of Untangling Tolkien (2003), a detailed chronology of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a must-have reference work for Tolkien fans.

* Contributor: J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia by Michael D. C. Drout. (Routledge, 2006)

* Editor of Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II. Winner of the American Chesterton Society "Outline of Sanity" award for 2009.

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Clio on September 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I purchased the text to potentially assign in it upper-division US history courses on the late 19th century and on US Women's History. Victoria Woodhull was one of the nation's great radical women--one of the first to trade on Wall Street, and one of the first to openly lay claim to the mantle of free lover. Several other biographers have written fascinating accounts of her life. I had hoped to amplify those works with her original words.

The book is a compilation of reproductions of articles about Woodhull and some of her earlier speeches. The writings are in the original typeset, so they are of varying quality. The book opens with a reproduction of a New York Time's article. This article is widely available at any public or university library with a subscription to the NYT historical archive. The facsimiles are of varying quality in terms of reproduction and intellectual material. "The Principles of Social Freedom" is probably the most interesting, and the most useable for a classroom discussion of Women's history, social equality, Gilded Age Free thought/spiritualism.

The material provided by the book's compiler, Matthew Perry, is simply laughable. In no way could you assign this book to a class of students (as I had hoped to do). The analytical passages provided by Perry are less than helpful. For instance, the author's strange digression about contemporary marriage and divorce practices on page 15 does little to contextualize the import of Woodhull's life, work, and ideas in regards to marriage, sex, and divorce.

In the end, Woodhuill deserves better and so do you.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By I. Schneider on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful addition to the Victoria Woodhull literature. Her actual speeches on free love are very readable and will bring people in touch finally with what she meant by free love: what the movement was all about then and now. Again this book is flawed only by the choice of a male critique interspersed between speeches.This person not a great choice as he was quite opbviously never a woman nor destined to think like one.This is a must chick book!!!!
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