The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times

Open Road + Grove/Atlantic
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“Ilyon Woo presents the earliest child custody laws of this country with vivid relevance . . . both legal and feminist details are fascinating.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America’s most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country’s notions of women’s rights, family, and marriage itself.
 
In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. He had taken them, she learned, to live among a celibate, religious people known as the Shakers. Defying all expectations, this famously petite and lovely woman mounted an epic campaign against her husband, the Shakers, and the law. In its confrontation of some of the nation’s most fundamental debates—religious freedom, feminine virtue, the sanctity of marriage—her case struck a nerve with an uncertain new republic. And its culmination—in a stunning legislative decision and a terrifying mob attack—sent shockwaves through the Shaker community and the nation beyond.
 
With a novelist’s eye and a historian’s perspective, Woo delivers the first full account of Eunice Chapman’s remarkable struggle. A moving story about the power of a mother’s love, The Great Divorce is also a memorable portrait of a rousing challenge to the values of a young nation.
 
“Modern Americans, bombarded with stories of celebrity divorces, probably assume that the tabloid breakup is a recent phenomenon. This lively, well-written and engrossing tale proves them wrong.” —The New York Times Book Review
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About the author

Ilyon Woo holds a B.A. in the Humanities from Yale College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, where she wrote her dissertation on nineteenth century anti-Shaker and Shaker apostate narratives. She has had support for her writing and research from numerous public and private funding sources, including the Peterson Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society; the Larry Hackman Research Residency at the New York State Archives; the Faith Andrews Fellowship at the Winterthur Museum and Library; the Elder Henry Blinn Research Fellowship at the University of New Hampshire (Durham) and the Canterbury Shaker Village; and the Younger Scholars Grant at the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has spoken publicly on Eunice Chapman’s anti-Shaker literature at museums and conferences. She lives with her family in Manhattan.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Open Road + Grove/Atlantic
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Published on
Aug 10, 2010
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780802197054
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 19th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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In a quiet town of Seneca Falls, New York, over the course of two days in July, 1848, a small group of women and men, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, held a convention that would launch the woman's rights movement and change the course of history. The implications of that remarkable convention would be felt around the world and indeed are still being felt today. In Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Woman's Rights Movement, the latest contribution to Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments in American History series, Sally McMillen unpacks, for the first time, the full significance of that revolutionary convention and the enormous changes it produced. The book covers 50 years of women's activism, from 1840-1890, focusing on four extraordinary figures--Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony. McMillen tells the stories of their lives, how they came to take up the cause of women's rights, the astonishing advances they made during their lifetimes, and the lasting and transformative effects of the work they did. At the convention they asserted full equality with men, argued for greater legal rights, greater professional and education opportunities, and the right to vote--ideas considered wildly radical at the time. Indeed, looking back at the convention two years later, Anthony called it "the grandest and greatest reform of all time--and destined to be thus regarded by the future historian." In this lively and warmly written study, Sally McMillen may well be the future historian Anthony was hoping to find. A vibrant portrait of a major turning point in American women's history, and in human history, this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to fully understand the origins of the woman's rights movement.
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Melanie Susan Gustafson examines women's partisan history as part of the larger history of women's political culture. Contesting the accepted notion that women were uninvolved in political parties before they formally got the vote, Gustafson reveals the length and depth of women's partisan activism between the founding of the Republican party, whose abolitionist agenda captured the loyalty of many women, and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924 presents the complex interplay of partisan and nonpartisan activity, the fierce debates among women about the best way to make their influence felt, and the ebb and flow of enthusiasm for women's participation within the Republican party. Gustafson documents the emergence of third parties--in particular the Progressive party, which split off from the Republican party in 1912--that fused the civic world of reform organizations with the electoral world of voting and legislation. She also profiles the leading women Republicans and activists, both familiar (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Addams, Mary Church Terrell) and less well known (Anna Dickinson, Victoria Woodhull, Judith Ellen Foster, Mary Ann Shadd Cary).
In The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
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In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

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Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

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