Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America
Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America. Boston: Bacon Press, 2001.
Braude looks at how the flourishing of Spiritualism in the mid-19th century intersected with the inception of the women’s rights movement in the same period. Both phenomena were egalitarian, and both rebelled against authority and traditional gender roles as they sought to empower women to claim their own voices. Braude then chronicles the waning of Spiritualism later in the century as it became less a radical social movement and more about sensationalism. She documents that the most serious challenge to Spiritualism and mediumship came from the new religious movement Christian Science through the writings of its founder. However, although Mary Baker Eddy rejected Spiritualism outright, Braude finds many a sympathetic Spiritualist in Eddy’s initial audience—many of them women. Both Christian Science and Spiritualism claimed to be scientific. But in their challenge to the reality of disease and death both never were in sync with orthodox religion or medicine. And “although Eddy believed that evil, did not exist [unlike Spiritualism which did not address evil at all] she was preoccupied with fighting the dangerous temporal effect of the belief in evil” (186).
ISBN-13 (Softcover): 9780253215024