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This photo of spiritualists at a seance courtesy of the Connecticut State Library

Spiritualism and Free Love

   --from The Terrible Siren, by Emaine Sachs

"The term 'free love' was coined in 1842 by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote a poem by that name in praise of spiritual freedom. Promiscuity was already rampant in late 19th-century America. Men were practicing free love with little, if any, backlash. It was accepted as a fact of nature that men would engage in sexual liaisons outside of marriage with fallen women and that bachelors would have mistresses. What distinguished the radical reform movement's interpretation of free love from contemporary social trends was that it gave good women as well as men the right to choose with whom and how often they would have sexual relations.

"In 1872, Victoria Woodhull, then president of the National Society of Spiritualists, addressed the convention of the National Suffrage Association on the subject of spiritualism and political reform. Isabella Beecher Hooker said afterwards that 'if the Spiritualists had brains enough and soul enough to come up to the position to which Victoria Woodhull invited them, they would rule the world.' "

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