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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parting the Gilded Curtain, July 3, 2000
This review is from: Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America (Cornell Paperbacks) (Paperback)
We are so dazzled by the gilded Victorian that we often refuse to look at the evidence of ordinary human needs and desires in the 19th century. Ms Brodie examines 100 years of attitudes and practices regarding an important aspect of marital reality -- the need to limit family size. The result is a fascinating examination of a topic that is usually ignored and often considered either non-existent or unimportant. Ms Brodie's energetic presentation is both analytical and scholarly with conclusions carefully supported by contemporary documentation. She also adds delightful textual flavor and dimension by threading excerpts from diaries and letters throughout her narrative.
The examination of Mary Pierce Poor's diary is illustrative. This unusual journal carefully records menstrual cycles and sexual contacts with Mary's husband Henry Varnum Poor from 1845 to 1868. When considering sexual abstinence as a birth control method, Ms. Brodie sees little evidence of this practice in the marital lives of the Poors, but does think that in 1851 they tried a physical separation for the summer to prevent conception. She quotes from Mary's diary to prove that this was not a happy solution. "I do not like to be long separated from you. We are happiest together, do not let us try absence again. I want to be with you, wherever you are, the rest of the summer, the rest of my life." Obviously, Mary enjoyed her conjugal pleasures, even if she was continuously worried about another pregnancy.
Overall this book is a extraordinary peak into the marital mores and realities of the Victorian period. It leaves no doubt that our ancestors grappled with the issues of family limitation and sexuality as rigorously as we do today. Terrific read. Great reference. Wonderful information.
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