Moral reform movements claiming to protect children began to emerge in the United States over a century ago, most notably when Anthony Comstock and his supporters crusaded to restrict the circulation of contraception, information on the sexual rights of women, and "obscene" art and literature. Much of their rhetoric influences debates on issues surrounding children and sexuality today. Drawing on Victorian accounts of pregnant girls, prostitutes, Free Lovers, and others deemed "immoral," Nicola Beisel argues that rhetoric about the moral corruption of children speaks to an ongoing parental concern: that children will fail to replicate or exceed their parents' social position. The rhetoric of morality, she maintains, is more than symbolic and goes beyond efforts to control mass behavior. For the Victorians, it tapped into the fear that their own children could fall prey to vice and ultimately live in disgrace.
In a rare analysis of Anthony Comstock's crusade with the New York and New England Societies for the Suppression of Vice, Beisel examines how the reformer worked on the anxieties of the upper classes. One tactic was to link moral corruption with the flood of immigrants, which succeeded in New York and Boston, where minorities posed a political threat to the upper classes. Showing how a moral crusade can bring a society's diffuse anxieties to focus on specific sources, Beisel offers a fresh theoretical approach to moral reform movements.
|Publisher:||Princeton University Press|
|Series:||Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives , #59|
|Product dimensions:||7.75(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Nicola Beisel is Associate Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University.
Table of Contents
|1||Introduction: Family Reproduction, Children's Morals, and Censorship||3|
|2||The City, Sexuality, and the Suppression of Abortion and Contraception||25|
|3||Moral Reform and the Protection of Youth||49|
|4||Anthony Comstock versus Free Love: Religion, Marriage, and the Victorian Family||76|
|5||Immigrants, City Politics, and Censorship in New York and Boston||104|
|6||Censorious Quakers and the Failure of the Anti-Vice Movement in Philadelphia||128|
|7||Morals versus Art||158|
|8||Conclusion: Focus on the Family||199|
What People are Saying About This
Not only is Imperiled Innocents good sociology and good history, it also addresses timely public issues and is a pleasure to read. This is an exemplary work of historical sociology.
William H. Sewell, Jr., University of Chicago