tv Amy Sohn The Man Who Hated Women CSPAN November 22, 2021 9:00am-9:56am EST
these television companies and more including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why turner has invested billions building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications along with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. .. >> how issues of the day developed over years and our series talking with extensive conversations with historians
about their work and many of our television programs are available as broadcasts and you can find them on c-span mobile apps or wherever you get your podcasts. >> download c-span's new mobile app and stay up-to-date with the latest events, house and senate floor and key congressional hearings. the white house events and supreme court oral arguments. using our live interactive morning program, washington journal where we hear your voices every day. c-span has you covered. download the app for free today. >> first of all, i'm delighted as always to say thanks to the national archives staff for "the man who hated woman", and the staff of the national archive in chicago is much appreciated. the activist anthony comstock voted his career devoted to
what he deemed immoral. the 1873 comstock act prevented contraceptives through the mail and after the passage eight remarkable women had a decades long fight against comstock law in the court and press. "the man who hated women", amy sohn brings home activism and women's rights in the future. amy sohn is a new york times best selling arthur of 12 books, in different languages and continents. and she's work for the new york press and new york post and a contributing editor at new york magazine for sirs years. as a free-lance journalist she's written for the new york times, slate, harper's bazaar, elle, men's journal and many
others. moderator mitchell is the author of four nonfiction books and formerly served as executive director of "george" magazine, features editor of "spin" magazine and news week and writing appear in wall street journal, chicago magazine, traveler and others. and numerous radio and television shows and let's hear from amy sohn and elizabeth mitchell. thank you for joining us. >> hi there. i am so thrilled to welcome amy sohn today to this program at the national archives. i am a huge fan of this book "the man who hated women" and so excited to ask the questions i had while i was reading it. so, amy, i want to start off just with how you even came across this story. where did the whole adventure of researching this begin?
>> thank you so much for doing this. i feel aligned with you in our important work covering women's stories. which is not always easy work, and thank you to the national archives foundation for have you go us, both of us, and we are going to talk at some point a little bit i've done a lot of research at the national archives and for this book i utilized the archives in chicago, new york, and of course, the college park. so, how did i-- i already forgot the question. how did i get interested in this subject? i've always been interested in ideas around women's his tear yeah and women's sanity or insanity. i love, gaslight. we use the term gaslighting all the time and few people have seen the incredible ingram
bergman film from which it arises. and women born in 1857 and i learned she was visited at night by a ghost husband and three researching her story, i learned that she was prosecuted under the comstock laws. and i decided that, if i wanted to write a book that included ida craddock's story i needed to be broader than that so i began researching all of the women who i felt had meaty, juicy stories and butted heads with him in one way or another. some had been prosecuted, some were under the comstock laws and some under federal, but i thought that he was a great opportunity to really tell the stories of these what i call sex radicals, these incredibly
unconventional women, some of whom we've heard about and others we haven't because they were active before suffrage passed and they were in this time of middle generation of women born generally in the middle of the 19th century, some of them 1830's, some 1850's, who don't get a lot of attention and some reviewers said it's called the man who hated women and it's really about the women and it is. anthony comstock is a great foil. if we could use him to tell the stories, why not? because-- >> it would be actually what he wouldn't want, right? [laughter] >> exactly, yes, yes. and as -- he, too, is evocative character. >> well, let's get a little sketch of where he comes from. i just want to move into the women's stories. >> yes, of course. >> but who was he?
because basically he had this profound impact on the lives of women going forward for 100 years and you know, they're still-- >> 150 really, yeah. because the fact of the comstock act was 1873. so we're now coming up on -- am i adding directly? 150 years. anthony comstock was born in 1844 in new canaan, connecticut, n agrarian part of connecticut and he was born on a farm, could see long island sound from the farm and every sunday he and his brothers and sisters and parents went to the congregational church for many, many hours. his mom, polly comstock was a direct descendant of the puritans and anthony fought in the civil war, his brother samuel died in service and he
enlisted afterwards and he appears from his civil war diaries masturbated obsessively and then felt guilty about it and some of his animous came from during the civil war they were passing around mail and materials, to move around new york in 1867, 1868 like many young veterans' wanted to become a dry goods salesman because he was interacting with men his age visiting prostitutes and boarding life, boarding culture, boxing, billiards and pretty waiter girls, saloons and gets at all of this, he became very bothered by the men and through
a series of small world coincidences he was able to befriend the scion of the ymca founded in this country in 1852 and because of the connection to those guys, samuel colgate, a name you might know from your toothpaste tube and he was sent to washington in 1872 and 1873 and got this law passed that became known as the comstock law, even though it has a much longer and more complicated name. so anthony comstock was essentially, he was iconic figure in the sense that he had kind of a classic civil war era biography which was, young, religious, christian, fought in the war and then moved to a large city and became really overwhelmed by the amount of
vice, noise, craziness, manufacturing of new york and it drove him to become what i call a mono maniac. >> and i found it fascinating one the key streets this was happening nassau street which i happened to have lived on and it's interesting the place where pornography was sold and produced and all the rest and that it was done quite openly and it seems, i mean, i think one of the interesting things is, people often have this impression of that era as if it was this really puritan across the board society, but in fact, it wasn't really. it was-- i mean, even when you're talking about the women you're coming across, i, too, was finding women had a certain level of liberation in the sort of mid to late 1800's which they seemed to have lost once world war i came along. and so, can you describe a little bit more, now, what that new york was like?
i mean, give some adjectives there, but-- >> go ahead. >> just that, you know, how prevalent was the, you know, this kind of seedy society as far as you can tell? >> i mean, some people, if you're familiar with this at all, maybe the gangs of new york, new york at that time was only downtown. you know, we think of the length of manhattan. he lived on a boarding house on pearl street near your old apartment. this was where a lot of people were arriving by boat. there was shipping, you know, that was what downtown was all about at that time. and you had cigar shops. there were sometimes they started at s-e-g-a-r. you could rent a room and take a girl upstairs.
there were book shops that sold all kinds of materials. to get an idea what this stuff was, some of which by the way is at the municipal archives in new york where you and i have both also done work. postcards that had kind of tricks, special ways of looking at images. and i wish i could find the page in my book, if you find it before i do we'll have to read. i mean, the books one was called women's rights convention and the idea of a pornographic work women's rights convention and that's all you really need to know, but a combination, one thing fascinating to me was anthony comstock is associated with the mail and one of the reasons he's associated with it because the mail and the way the paper was printed, really changed what i call smut in the book because you could have it-- often times very small books of images and words that you hide them easily so that was a
really big deal to be able to print so small that you could have some kind of depression because remember, all of these young men engaging in this sporting life sporting culture they were living in boarding houses with other men and they were going out all night doing crazy things and so, you know, they were living in close quarters with other men and so these books would be kind of passed around. walt whitman, whose writing was under the comstock law wrote to a common prostitute. and one thing that's shock something that prostitution exhibited in different forms from brothel houses to the waiter girls who would sell you drinks, but really they were trying to sell you sex to street walkers. the idea meaning it was not behind the scenes. it was open and how shocking this would be to a congregationalist from rural connecticut.
>> can you give us in concise form what that law was that it was passed and that's key how he fights all of these women. >> there was already an obscenity law before he went to washington, but what made the comstock law unique, it decriminalized the mailing of both objecty and contraception, contraception information and abortion information with much deeper sentences and with deep sentences and fines. what it did for the first time it included an existing obscenity law information about and actual contraception. >> so and that's where he first gets into this, you know, he fights with the women. so which woman is the first female going up against in terms of what information she's trying to get out there and what he, you know-- >> the first woman that he
butted heads with in a public way, really is-- i mean, the first ones were wives of smut sellers because he started by seizing dirty books and burning the plates so it's interesting to see that his very first interactions with women were women who were married to men who were making a living in the smut trade which again at that time, not that unusual. there was a lot of it. but the first high profile woman he came in contact with victoria woodhall and her sister. the sisters moved into new york within a few years when anthony comstock moved to new york. i love the parallel. close in age, a little bit older, but this idea of coming to new york to make it in totally different ways. he wanted to be a dried goods salesman, find a nice christian
woman and family and they wanted to take new york by storm. they, you know, wanted to eat at delmonicos without a man, you know, to accompany them. they started a radical newspaper called woodhall and weekly and they started a search, you know, on brokage house. and i believe it was 1870 and they were said to have both have prostituted themselves before they came to new york. we don't know the details on that. we don't know how much of that is true, but what we know is that they both made their livings as clairvoyants. and they came from a large family and their father traded on their charisma. and this was coming off post civil war and people were wanting to get in touch with dead relatives. so clairvoyance was a big business and anyway, i'll try
to be concise because so much to cover. >> and ultimately runs for president, too. >> of course, not to mention that the first woman to run for president did so in 1872 and she did it while living with two husbands under the same roof. >> it's amazing. and also i never realized until i read your book, that frederick douglas although he was on vice-president on the ticket had been alerted-- >> the story is bizarre. they created an equal rights party which had incredible ideas in it, but essentially used as a publicity ploy and never consented to his nomination or campaigned with her. the way she butted heads with comstock, in the weekly, they
published scandalous articles, one an allegedly gang rape and involved teenage girls and a prominent businessman and others that involved the well-known plymouth church preacher, henry ward beecher, who was having an affair with the wife of one of his accoites and in the newspaper they published two explosive articles, one way contained the term, the red trophy of her virginiaty to refer to the high hyman and the other religious revered at the time, saying that he was in an adultous relationship, adulterous
affair. and so anthony comstock wanted to ban this. in 1873 it included the term newspapers specifically to cover their weekly. and it isn't often written about, passed this law that the specifics of this law were for the direct purpose of getting tennessee and victoria into prison. >> yeah, find it so interesting that, you know, it's like sex is not just sex. it's the way that it crops up as sort of obscenity issue is through actually a fight over political power on a certain level, right? i mean, the women that you're writing about for the most part are-- had he get entangled because of issues about women's rights and their rights to their bodies or what have you, or like you said, they're taking down one of the biggest, you know,
celebrity preachers, sort of guides to the moral fiber of this country and that's the kind of thing that gets them in trouble. i mean-- >> and they were representative of a kind of womanhood that was deeply offensive to him which was they were taking the victorian ideal which was that women should be wives and mothers and devoted to family and to god and completely upending it saying that some marriages were worse than prostitution and writing about, as you said, high powered political figures and taking them down. there were rumors that comstock was paid off by beecher and she did associates to go after them. even if that's not true they all knew each other and in that world of you know, kind of elite, was starting to form at
that time and was incredibly well connected. >> i wrote about him in my book because he was one of abraham lincoln's advisors and supporters and may have won him the election in new york. so the -- now, the other thing that's fascinating was that comstock isn't content to just do this from a distance. he's frequently really in the thick of it and so can you talk a little about his sting operations? >> yeah, i mean, there were many americans who agreed with him from a religious perspective. believed that reading or looking at porn could lead to terrible things. but he was not that unusual in his upbringing and his rationale. he walked around with a revolver and tried to shut down
saloons. during the civil war he would take his whiskey ration and dump it out so no one else could drink it either. it's one thing if you're not going to drink it, he was such a spoiler, a party pooper. what he was very controversial for among state thinkers, his radical antagonist, he would decoy people and use crazy names like edgewell and pretended to be teenage girls, frankie streeter was another name and he concocted entire families and he would send decoy letters from post office boxes, some in-state and some out of state when he went them out of state it's so he could get interstate mail. he could nail people for that. he walked into abortionists and women's health practitioner's office toss buy contraceptives
under false names or premises and revealed himself as anthony comstock and wave a white handkerchief to the waiting officers. frequently he took reporters with him. as i'm saying this i'm talking about fake names, using the press. >> yeah and so-- >> manipulating it, might be reminding you of someone, especially that-- especially that idea of using false names, but he was very aware of his power and so many people who agreed that, even people who agreed that abortion was wrong and contraception was wrong didn't think the way he went about getting the prostitution was right and claimed was illegal. and they tried many times to get him on that and it never went anywhere. >> now, of the women that he tangled with, which of them do
you find the most, you know, sort of heroic or-- >> and talked with autocratic. >> much of my book, maybe a quarter is about the woman ida craddock. and my mother's family is from philadelphia and also there was an incredible flourishing radical scene in philadelphia in the 1850's, 50's, 70's, i think in part connected to the strong quaker tradition and liberalism of quakers. and ida went to a-- and was a brilliant student and she was the first woman at undergraduate student in university of pennsylvania, and they would not accept her because she was a woman.
and she turned to trading and she were interested in religion and she went to alaska and saw the phallic looking totem poles. >> and i went to brown university and features in-- and remind me of myself. >> did you-- >> now i know why we like each other so much. [laughter] >> i don't need to tell you about -- you were there at the peak there. she became obsessed with sex and symbolism and went to the world's fair in 1893 and saw the pell belly dancers at the time and was interested in sex and these come in waves as the stereotypes that victorian era women were repressed and never had orgasms and hated sex. well, there was this flourishing of sex in the 1840's, a lot of it coming out
of, for example, work that was making a place in the united states. and freud wouldn't be many years before freud's writings would make its way cross. and there were childbirth and less pain. and everything that we could get into. but ida craddock, over a period, like the digest, over a period much about nine years went to washington, d.c., chicago, philadelphia and new york and was told not to mail her marital sex manual and ultimately went head to head with comstock in new york, but i think what you and i bet like about her the most is she claims never to have had a human living lover and she
claimed that all of her sex information contained in these kind of marriage guides that she wrote came from her ghost husband. he was a ghost of a businessman she had met as a teenager who had in real life died young of tuberculosis and no one knows whether she said this because it would be scandalous to claim to have sex knowledge as an unmarried woman or whether, in fact, the relationship she had with a ghost did teach her some amazing things. but you know it's crazy, she didn't always have orgasms with a ghost. >> and i mean, i thought her writing about the ghost was really interesting because it's so nuanced, yet, it's not like everything is the best it could possibly be because she's imagining it. and she had altered levels to it, but fascinating so few people seemed to have even given her a hard time about the
whole idea. they're like, yeah, she has this ghost husband. >> well, that's not true. i think i wrote about this a little bit later in the early 900's in the liberal world, i write-- i usually use the word progressive or radical to describe the world she was in, that she did meet a lot of rationalist guys who believed she was dilutional and insane and so, what i like about her, she was kind of an outside of every world she was in. i mean, her mother was unitarian, so then, you know, the daughter is having sex with a ghost and then among rational people, they're like ghosts don't exist and in the spiritualist world she was controversial because she liked her alliances with other religious groups. she wasn't a separatists or
spiritualist. she was a mass of contradictions. >> so the marital guide sold pretty well, right? >> i don't have her -- i don't have those figures on her books. similar writers of that time sold hundreds of thousands of copies of their books. an evanston gynecologist wrote the pregnancy and childbirth guides that did very well. and the haywoods, very well-known free lovers. and they-- awe and i could have hundreds of thousands of copies of their books sold and be partying every night. so it's really incredible to think that there was no traditional publishing like we know it today. books were sold to canvassing
agents and the way you found out about them, reading radical that would have advertisements. and ida craddock would sell stockton's book and would sell medical advice books and they created a system of alternative publishing that seemed to me like it was working. many, many people, this is how most of the people were getting their books. >> it helps there was no tv or anything else. but the -- and then so then how did some of these women actually thwart his efforts? i thought one of those interesting things was the way that they were circulating the, you know, syringe, you know, so we can talk a little about that, the comstockian is your ring. >> one of the women who he went
after was a doctor named sarah chase. sarah blakely chase. unclear whether she provided abortions or sold only contraceptives. she claimed never to have done an abortion. and mr. farnesworth, she was publishing a health magazine called the family physician. and she wound up not being hymn r imprisoned under in comstock law, but was so furious for raiding her home and that she lost clients as a result of all of this, that in the physiologist and family physician she started to
advertise for a comstock syringe. they were very cheap for hygienic purposes, but could be used for contraceptive purposes following intercourse and put all kinds of substances into them that were said to be spermacidal and they were somewhat effective. it's very hard to get the specifics about any of this. what i love about the comstock syringe. month after month she's advertising the world famous, you know, gift to humanity, the comstock syringe, and then the haywoods lovers in worcester county, massachusetts they picked up on it and started calling it the comstock syringe and started selling it themselves and he wound up going after them for an issue of the newspaper that included these advertisements. they wrote things like, the comstock' mother had a syringe and known how to use it what a
world of woe it would have saved us and i can only just only imagine the fury that he felt reading this. >> yes. >> and it reminded me of the way that, i don't know how old the people listening to this are, but the way that rick santorum's name was used. just look it up, just look it up. >> and so in the diaries that you found of his, you said you found out a diary, did i get that right? >> you mean comstock civil war and early marriage diaries, i got them from secondary sources, they appeared to be lost and we don't have them beyond a couple of years after the passage of the law. >> i was curious how far into his life they go, because it would be so interesting. >> everyone wants to get their hands on them. >> i know. but the -- so, but i was, you
know, can you talk about how intensely he fought some of these things to the point where some of these women ended up in jail? >> well, i mean, you know, again, the title of my book is tricky because he didn't believe that he hated women and if you look at statistics in his arrest log books, which now are on-line, but when i was researching this were at the library of congress. he went after many, many, many more men than women and that has something to do who was publishing dirty books. abortionists were notoriously difficult to get in court because witnesses did not want to testify. women who had gotten abortions, even if bad things happened didn't want to talk about it. two of the women in my book, i guess i won't try to give too much away, one of the most
famous abortionists in the entire country, was 67 when he tried to put her in prison for what would have been, i believe, the second or third time. the first time he had a contract with her. and on the eve of her sentencing split her wrists twice in the bathtub because she thought she was going to be sent to the workers on die. and there were rumors that it wasn't her body and that it had been switched. so her-- there is a wonderful fiction by notorious life by kate manning, which imagines what might have happened, but and she was not the only woman in my book who
took her own life and comstock bragged about the suicides he caused, saying he had caused 16 suicides. >> i think we can safely call your book "the man who hated women" based on that. and i also want to say it everyone who is listening in, you can post questions on the chat and we will answer those. >> and also, the national foundation is selling the book, i don't think where the link is, but that's something that maybe could put it in the chat that we want to support my work, but also the national archives and buy it from-- >> well, i think that everyone needs to buy this one, the other thing i found interesting, it's almost a primer on activism, effective activism and i thought, were there a few things in there that you were particularly impressed by in terms of the organizing or the, you know,
the tactics that some of these women use today try to move their agenda forward? because i did think that people might not understand how much brilliant work went on in the political arena, you know, before, you know, maybe the more modern times. >> yeah, this was essentially activism through writing and probably another reason i was so attracted to the women's stories, almost all of them were writers. meaning, someone like ida craddock. she wrote the marriage manuals and sex guides, but in revisions of her own books talked about anthony comstock being a sadist and that anyone who thought sex was unclean was comstockian. and many of them were fighting the comstock laws through writing about them in the radical press. and this is sometimes called
the free thought world or free thinker world and and it was-- i was about to say hundreds, i would say at least a thousand publications from around the 1830's to 1880's, 1890's, sort of heyday of it advocated for civil liberties, some were health oriented and had a combination of health writing and political writing, or huge circulations and the letter writers sometimes became columnists and i had to call in new york 1990's and of our best letter writers would hire them. >> yeah --. >> and what inspired me was the idea of radical and there were sometimes petitions and circulars and things like that in the publications and radical
actions through publications. >> yeah, and so when you're talking about the publications, first of all, i'm very curious how much you were allowed to see in the archives, like how many are still available, but also, just-- you could talk a little about if we're getting into it an era where it's actually appreciated, to write about women and history and yet, it's very difficult, i think, we both have found to find the, you know, source of materials. and can you talk a little about that challenge in trying to bring these women's work to life? >> yeah, absolutely. most of these publications existed, let's say, as medical libraries, the harvard led r medical library, get this straight. new york academy of medicine library here in manhattan,
the-- you know, with all of these things you have to go to weird place toss get nem and get a couple of issues at a time. and some are in the national archives because they're in the postal records. and the publications out of worcester county, you can read issues of it in the postal records, the national archives in washington d.c. we were talking about women's history. yeah, i've often said, now, i don't know if you make these jokes, too, you have to be a total masochist to write women's history because it the hardest research in the world and i should add research about underrepresented groups of any kind is incredibly difficult because people tend only to leave records when they were involved with someone famous. >> yes. >> and you know, you and i and narrative nonfiction authors
were always trying to get personal materials and i really did the best i could with these women in terms of shading in the personal details of their lives, and not every case was i able to get diaries and letters and so, in some cases i had to rely on court transcripts, as you said, sometimes newspaper articles or smaller newspapers could be instructive and containing personal details in them and you might hunt down a first person story that existed in one of these newspapers. but it's the really tragedy of women's history which is the more unconventional lives that a woman-- that these women led, the less likely they were to marry and have children and kind of have the maybe, you know, the women in my book were not wealthy, they were not well-connected and many of them had
unconventional romantic lives. so it's tough to find letters and diaries. and angela haywood, i was happy to find about 30 to 40 letters in the wellesley historical society because there happened to have been a prominent wellesley radical, whose own archives were there. so a lot of our work, as i'm sure you agree with, is working backwards, who did they correspond with who was famous and getting that person's archives. >> and always with the women, i find that i in desperation i'll go onto ebay and please, let some descendant selling their postcards or-- >> i've done the same thing, where you're trying to get the postcards and haywood's great-grandmother just contacted me last week. >> that's amazing. >> and i don't know whether i
know more than she does. she's trying to put together her family history, but it's incredible to also think that that is not that many generations down, the great granddaughter is still alive. >> that's one positive about the u.s. history, it's so young there's hope there's some archives somewhere holding these letters or diaries, what have you. >> can you talk about the national archive itself, what things did you find useful in the research for this book? >> i got a tip from someone, a woman named amy warble, wrote a book about comstock visual world. and the postal records, i don't are what she said i walked into the national archives in washington d.c. and the postal records are pretty wonderful, exhaustive there. and using the help of an
archivist, an independent archivist i met there named john dice and i hope he's listening today, i was able to figure out where to get these files that were individual postal records related to people prosecuted for doing things connected to the mail. and they're basically like fbi files. there was a predecessor to the fbi called the bureau of investigation and may have had a different name in the time period i was researching, but they are these sort of the size of a mailing envelope, so they're all stacked in boxes like that and they have the person's name and case number on the front, and you open it up and in some cases these files contain the actual material. >> that's incredible. >> i'm sitting there in the national archives in this place and let me tell you this,
you're reading about sexual scenarios, you know, i'm like this with my scanner, like-- >> and it's like, yeah. >> who knew you could find these things, but i'm telling you if you want scandalous material start with postal letters. >> yeah, i mean, i think we both are, you know, extremely grateful for the work of the national archives because first of all, those archivists you need them when you go in there. >> when you walk in with a vague, you know, if you start out saying give me everything you have on anthony comstock, it's a beginning, but it's just the beginning and you have to know how to look. >> yeah. >> and that's what they were able to help me with. >> but that preservation work is just so crucial. i mean, you never know when one of those documents hidden in there is going to reveal something crucial to how we
understand history going forward. >> but that's the feeling because you're kind of like a detective. that's how i always feel when i see something that no one else has written about or when i was able to read anthony comstock's own arrest reports of ida craddock, it's so immediate and i don't know if you've discovered this, but also when you rely on-- you read the secondary sources, it must be correct and you start facing the researchers and you go wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. >> it really requires going back to the source and then you have to battle it out after that. and say, no, i found the document. >> you know, in terms of-- so this is going out to the audience and readers now hopefully and hopefully many young readers of the book because it's such an important history, but what is-- what would you hope would be their main take away from it, yeah.
and in any aspect, whether it's the activism or the history? >> well, it's two fold, you and i have talked about, reproductive rights are under assault in our country right now and have been for about 15 years in a serious way, in about half the country, you may only have one abortion clinic within a close distance of your home. so, that is very scary and upsetting to me and i think that young women, i mean, what i was going to say don't take your reproductive rights for granted, but also don't take them for granted where they live because they've been stripped away from them. and i think what i'm proudest about in the book and the take away that i really want people to have is that i started out thinking that i was going to be writing about birth control and i realized that ultimately i was writing about pleasure which is, you can't enjoy sex
if you're terrified of having your 12th pregnancy that could kill you either while you're pregnant or having a baby and cripple you economically. as i started to learn more about this, i realized that, you know, what these women were writing about was, sure, women's liberation, but it was women's right to pleasure in the context of not feeling that sex could lead to death and that's really what we're talking about because of the just the history of pregnancy and childbirth in our country is that, it was dangerous, you know, especially with each repeated pregnancy and childbirth, it became more and more dangerous. so i think what i want young people to think about a lot is you weren't the first radicals. there's so much an incredible radical history and radical
women's history and i feel that sometimes, you know, some people that right nonfiction about leftism they don't include women. even though it includes so many wonderful, vibrant, exciting women and i had a love affair with emma goldman through writing this book and i guess the second thing is direct action work and getting control of the narrative through writing and media is one way to affect change in addition to the vote. and the other thing i should probably mention is all of the women in my book lived before they could vote and were tried by all male judges or all male juries. it's a different world, the whole legal system was poised against them. can you imagine standing in front of 12 men and talking about the sex writings and
didn't know the difference between contraception and abortion. >> i think it's striking, imagine that allowed them to just be certain that they should have these rights when there was nothing in law that was suggesting that they should have their equality rights. i think it's very, very impressive to see what they were willing to do, the courage of many of these people. >> do you think in some ways not being enfranchised with a vote made the world more full of possibilities? >> a very good question, i mean, i don't think that that -- traditionally that's how it works, the less you feel part of the system, the more hopeless you usually feel, i think. >> right. >> and particularly you don't get the feeling, the suffrage is different in full force.
>> and not marching in the streets. >>, but remember 1848. >>, but it felt that amazing moment happened and then it-- >> at times, yeah, these kind of bursts and i wonder why was radical publishing so strong in the years that we don't really associate, we don't tend to, like you said earlier, we don't tend to associate with radicalism before the civil war and then there's the 1800's. >> and it's amazing to think there are people all across these small towns who are buying these publications, so they can be-- a woman who's got five children, but reading radical publication. >> and i think just to circle back to why it all connects to anthony comstock, the male, you know, which allowed men and the civil war to get smut and pornography and this kind of
thing allowed radical minds to share ideas and exchange opinions because railway service and cheap paper changed things in the country and you could liken it to the early days of the internet in terms of a connector and it was a force of good. >> yeah. >> and that's what he knew better than anyone was he understood, anthony comstock understood the power of the mail. >> yeah, it's really fascinating. well, i hope everyone goes out and gets the book and then we can all have larger conversations. because it really is tremendous work, amy, and the fact that you-- i mean, i don't know exactly how many years or what have you you put in on this, but it's clear that you really. >> five. >> you dug into the research and we're all grateful.
i think we're out of time. >> thank you so much for doing this. i hope we can have more conversations about this in the future. >> i would love to and love to thank everyone at the national archives and doug swanson and the rest for putting on this programs and the programs that they produce because it's in the country to have people speaking from their deep research leak like you. >> thank you, amy. >> thank you, one other thing, the book is available through the national archives store if you'd like to support, what message are we getting here, if you'd like to support the national archives foundation, meaning that some of the money you pay for the book will go to support its work, you can buy it in their store. i think we're waiting to see -- why don't you say the name of your most recent book. >> it's lincoln's life, true
civil war caper through wall street and the white house. >> it's amazing, that this idea, so far i haven't managed to say our former president's name, but this idea of thinking so cyclical and the use of the media, we think of, you know, it was again in the 1990's, and you know, and our work shows, in fact, what does it say when you enter the national archives. >> and i always found that quite moving. >> okay, i'm getting a message to say also i am encouraging people to buy this book at independent book shops, which have really, really had a hard time over the past 15 months and are starting to open their doors again to physical
shoppers, so, book shops.org is a way you can get it on-line and support independent bock stores, but of course, wherever you live and are watching this from, walk in and order it there because they need you and books like this need independent stores so that people like we can keep writing our books. >>. [laughter] >> thank you very much. ♪♪ >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more, including comcast. are you thinking it's a community center? no, it's more than that. >> comcast is partnering with a thousand community centers to