A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York

A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York

by Bill Greer
A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York

A Dirty Year: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in Gilded Age New York

by Bill Greer


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As 1872 opened, the New York Times headlined four stories that symptomized the decay in public morals that the editors so frequently decried: financier Jim Fisk was gunned down in a love triangle; suffragist and free-love advocate Victoria Woodhull was running for president; anti-vice activist Anthony Comstock battled smut dealers poisoning children’s minds; and abortionists were thriving. Throughout the year these stories intertwined in unimaginable ways, pulling in others, both famous and infamous—suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Brooklyn’s beloved preacher Henry Ward Beecher; the nation’s richest tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt; and William Howe, preeminent counsel to the criminal element.

From rigged elections, everyday shootings, and attacks on the press to sexual impropriety, reproductive rights, and the chasm between rich and poor, the issues of the day still resonate. Political parties split over a bitterly contested election; suffragist battled suffragist over bettering women’s place in society; and pious saints fought soulless sinners, until at year-end this jumble of conflicts exploded in the greatest sensation of the nineteenth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641602518
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,144,402
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bill Greer has spent decades exploring New York. His novel The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan portrays the city’s founding as New Amsterdam. He chaired the New Netherland Institute’s program to establish the New Netherland Research Center, has received the Institute’s Howard Hageman award, and has spoken on New York history throughout the Hudson Valley. Bill holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Visit him at BillsBrownstone.com.

Table of Contents

Part I The New Year, 1872

1 State of the City 3

Part II Winter

2 "I've Got You Now" 15

3 "Bravo! My Dear Woodhull" 32

4 "These Heartless and Unscrupulous Specimens of Human Depravity" 44

5 "The Female Form Divine in Various and Picturesque Attitudes" 53

6 Everyone Enjoys a Good Party 61

Part III Spring

7 Black Friday 65

8 "In Due Time Ye Shall Reap If Ye Faint Not" 73

9 "Tit for Tat" 83

10 Howe's Magic 93

11 "From This Convention Will Go Forth a Tide of Revolution" 99

12 An Afternoon in the Park 108

Part IV Summer

13 "A Piebald Presidency" 115

14 "Too Indecent to Be Herein Set Forth" 121

15 "Society … Will Have Its Ghastly Meal of Curiosity" 127

16 "Relief from Trouble" 136

17 "Worth a Hot Night in the Theater" 138

Part V Autumn

18 "I Believe in Public Justice" 143

19 "There Is Nothing Secret That Shall Not Be Made Known" 154

20 "A Malicious and Gross Libel" 160

21 "The Great Presidential Battle" 168

22 "The Red Trophy of Her Virginity" 174

23 "They Treat Me There like a Dog" 181

24 "A Gross Scandal … Helped by a Gross Blunder" 184

25 "Stop Their Press, Perhaps; but Their Tongues, Never!" 187

26 "Then Is Our Country a Despotism" 190

27 "Paradise for Murderers" 192

28 "What Can I Do, What Can I Do?" 196

Part VI The New Year, 1873

29 "The Naked Truth" 203

30 "Special Agent, P. O. Dept." 208

31 "God Knows I Am Not the Man" 212

32 "The Awful Toilet for the Gallows" 214

33 "Today Is a Good Day to Talk About Heaven" 218

34 "Pronounced Dead" 225

35 "The Gallows Is Accordingly Cheated" 232

36 "Denominational Argument" 236

37 "Reformation or Revolution-Which?" 240

Epilogue 245

Acknowledgments 251

A Note on Sources 253

Notes 255

Bibliography 269

Index 273

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