Book Description

From Library Journal This lively biography, based on the author's dissertation (Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1997), traces the remarkable life of 19th-century social reformer and educator Mary Gove Nichols (1810-84). Nichols and her second husband, Thomas Low Nichols, are virtually unknown today, perhaps because their advocacy of free love alienated them from other reformers and because they spent their last several years in England. Nichols was most famous, even notorious, for her advocacy of hydrotherapy (or water cure treatments), exercise, and simple diet and for her lectures on female anatomy and public health. She and her husband were also outspoken supporters of marriage law reform, which they considered even more important than women's suffrage. As Silver-Isenstadt demonstrates, although the couple challenged the institution of marriage, they shared a remarkably warm and intellectually collaborative marriage themselves. The Nicholses' water cure establishments, lectures, and voluminous publications anticipated later movements in support of public health, women's health, and particularly legal rights. This engaging biography is the first to shed light on Mary Gove Nichols's rich and controversial life and as such is a worthwhile purchase for both public and academic libraries. Patricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Read more From Booklist First-time biographer Silver-Isenstadt carves a space in the annals of feminist social activists, health reformers, and sex educators for Mary Gove Nichols (1910-84), a forgotten radical thinker who cleared the trail for Margaret Sanger and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Precocious, spiritual-minded, and free-thinking, Nichols began her lifelong commitment to freeing women from perilous ignorance about their bodies after suffering an abusive marriage and witnessing her sister's early death. Counting Edgar Allen Poe among her friends and, later, Horace Mann among her enemies, Nichols, a celebrated and controversial advocate for women's health and equality, was a prolific writer, daring public speaker, and practitioner of the water cure. She found her soulmate in her second husband, Thomas Nichols, a journalist turned doctor and an ardent feminist. Together they zealously espoused their belief in the connection between health, sexual liberation, and freedom; founded a school; dabbled in spiritualism; then unexpectedly converted to Catholicism. The Nichols' story is complex, fascinating, and relevant, and Silver-Isenstadt elucidates their lives and ideas with nimble insight and verve. Donna SeamanCopyright ? American Library Association. All rights reserved Read more See all Editorial Reviews