Synopses & Reviews
Post-Civil War New York City was the battleground of the American dream: an era of vast fortunes and crushing poverty; a time notorious for free love and the emerging rights of women, yet one that saw the rise of brutal sexual repression and the enforcement of prejudice. Though life was hard, the promise of change was in the air. Women were agitating for civil rights, including the vote. Immigrants were pouring into the city, bringing with them a new energy.
Embodying the times is Freydeh, a spirited young Jewish woman from Russia. Living in a tiny tenement flat with eight others, Freydeh juggles numerous jobs to earn passage to New York for her beloved family. Then she learns that her younger sister is adrift somewhere in the city and begins a search that carries her through brothels and prison.
Interwoven with Freydeh's story is a vividly wrought account of such real-life heroines -- often at odds with the law as well as societal customs -- as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president and an activist for sexual freedom. They were tireless fighters who strove to elevate the position of all women. Depicted as well is the fundamentalist crusader Anthony Comstock, who fought to eliminate sexual expression, pushing for the passage of laws that still haunt our legal system.
In the tradition of her World War II epic Gone to Soldiers, Marge Piercy re-creates a turbulent period in American history witnessed through the lives of its most notorious figures and explores the changing attitudes toward women, minorities, religion, and sexuality in nineteenth-century America, a land of sacrifice, suffering, promise, and reward.
“Piercy does beautifully render some of the details of womens lives in the 1860s.” Naomi Wolf in ELLE
“Succeeds remarkably in bringing history textbook characters to fully realized, fiery and memorable life.” Hartford Courant
“A novel that will please historical fiction fans.” Library Journal
“A riveting account...gripping, informative and haunting.” Tapestry magazine
“Fascinating and only too relevant...Piercy has a gift for conjuring the texture of an historical era.” Washington Post Book World
“Rich...Piercy powerfully dramatizes the early feminists zeal and the high stakes of the gender wars.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Coming of age in a post-Civil War New York City tenement flat, Jewish-Russian Freydeh juggles multiple jobs to earn passage for her beloved family, an endeavor that is compromised when she learns that her younger sister is adrift somewhere in the city. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.
Post-Civil War New York City is the battleground of the American dream. In this era of free love, emerging rights of women, and brutal sexual repression, Freydeh, a spirited young Jewish immigrant, toils at different jobs to earn passage to America for her family. Learning that her younger sister is adrift somewhere in the city, she begins a determined search that carries her from tenement to brothel to prison—as her story interweaves with those of some of the epoch's most notorious figures: Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Susan B. Anthony; sexual freedom activist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president; and Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose censorship laws are still on the books.
In the tradition of her bestselling World War II epic Gone to Soldiers, Marge Piercy once again re-creates a turbulent period in American history and explores changing attitudes in a land of sacrifice, suffering, promise, and reward.
About the Author
Marge Piercy is the author of the memoir Sleeping with Cats and fifteen novels, including Three Women and Woman on the Edge of Time, as well as sixteen books of poetry, including Colors Passing Through Us, The Art of Blessing the Day, and Circles on the Water. She lives on Cape Cod, with her husband, Ira Wood, the novelist and publisher of Leapfrog Press.