Podcast: Professor Carol Faulkner, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America

Interview with Professor Carol Faulkner, Associate Dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and Professor of History. Professor Faulkner recently released her new book, titled Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in 19th Century America. This past summer, she sat down and discussed this new book with Ben Field in the Maxwell Sound Studio.



Faulkner Podcast

This is the first installment of Orange History Hub, the Syracuse University History Department podcast. Our first episode features Dr. Carol Faulkner, Associate Dean of the Maxwell School and Professor of History. Professor Faulkner focuses on the United States in the 19th century, specializing in a range of topics that include women, gender, sexuality, and social movements.

She is the author of Women's Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen's Aid Movement and Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in 19th Century America. She's also the editor of Women in American History to 1880: A Documentary Reader. Professor Faulkner sat down to discuss her newest book, coming out this September with the University of Pennsylvania Press, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in 19th Century America.

Unfaithful dives into the deeper meanings of its three title topics through careful exploration of the dramatic arguments and communal experiments of mid 19th century reformers, who sought to find true love while reversing the meaning of what were considered adulterous acts. The marriage reform movement of the mid-19th century was focused mostly in New York state including the Syracuse era.

The era saw these reformers, dubbed “free lovers” by the media, interacting with a wide range of other prominent groups. Free lovers made company and even intersected with women's rights activists, abolitionists, spiritualists, and other communitarians and Bohemians. Unfaithful culminates in the telling adultery trial of the infamous Brooklyn preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. While Beecher's name is listed as defendant, the free love movement was just as much under the microscope. Covered throughout the national media, the trial set the precedent for marriage and sex laws for years to come.

Professor Faulkner sat down to discuss all of these topics and more from Unfaithful at Eggers Hall in the Maxwell Sound Studio.

Ben Field: Thank you, Professor Faulkner, for meeting with me today.

Dr. Carol Faulkner: Thank you Ben.

BF: So, I guess to start off, with we might as well, you know, begin with a setting of the time. What period where you covering when you began your research on unfaithful?

CF: So, my main historical interest is in the 19th century US and especially the pre-Civil War and Civil War era. I'm interested historically in the intersection between feminism and abolitionism, the movement to end slavery. And so, I knew I wanted to cover the same general period and especially the overlap between.

Those movements that I'd focused on previously, feminism and abolition and other social movements, were interested in marriage as a problem to be solved.

BF: Perfect. So, I guess that brings us to the subject of Unfaithful, marriage and adultery and love in general. So, what brought you to study these topics?

CF: Well, my previous book had been a biography of Lucretia Mott, who was a feminist abolitionist and Quaker Minister. She was one of the women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. And, she had an incredibly long and happy marriage.

So, she and her husband were married for over 50 years. It was very egalitarian. They basically never fought, you know, or had any conflict in their marriage, exactly. So, I was interested in something a little bit more scandalous and there were appearances of scandal on the periphery of Lucretia Mott. You know that one of her cousins, who she was very fond of, got divorced, which was not uncommon, but relatively rare Also, of course one of the biggest scandals of the women's rights movement in the 19th century was over Victoria Woodhull’s appearance in the post-civil war women's movement. At first, she was a bright star, but when she openly proclaimed herself to be a free lover and an opponent of legal marriage, it caused quite a scandal. Lucretia Mott actually often sided with those sex radicals.

You know, she believed people should be allowed to state what they believe, argue for what they believe, and then people could make a judgment. You know, so she was for free speech and open exchange of ideas regardless of how scandalous they might have been.

BF: Yeah, that's interesting. She's kind of seemed to dance around these subjects in her private life, and in her public life tried to, you know, I guess you could say, cleanse them a little bit and her broadcast of her views.

But, another thing I think we should bring up at the beginning is the setting, of this book and you know, frequently it's in New York; and specifically New York in the Second Great Awakening around what was the so called “Burned-Over District,” burned over with religious zeal and reformist movements and things like that. I think it might be important to talk about that period and that geographical area because of its connection to Syracuse. Was there any reason why you only focused on this area? I would imagine it's because of all the reform movements in this area.

CF: Yeah. Well, one of the other reasons that I chose this topic was because of the proximity to the Oneida Community, which you know, anytime someone comes to visit me I will drive them, you know, the 30 minutes it takes to drive over to the Oneida Community for a tour because it's such an interesting place.

Yeah, and so their controversial ideas about marriage, which we can get into in more detail later on, were one of the things that really started me down this project and particularly they're what you might call anti-marriage practices, right? They didn't believe in monogamy. They believe that when two people were devoted to each other, it actually detracted from their relationship to God.

So, you were supposed to share God's love but often married couples would join the Oneida Community. They often had difficulty with it. Okay, you know that they had difficulty break basically breaking their legal marriage vows to participate in the community and it was actually a challenge for them.

So, I was interested in this tension between people wanting love and a romantic partner but also having the difficulty with actually practicing it. Yeah, and desiring other people which is sort of a normal. You get part of the human experience lost and things like that which really complicates things exactly.

BF: So, I guess, as we're beginning to dive into more of the content, we should for clarification purposes go over the words that are really pertinent to your book and your research, particularly adultery, marriage, and love. Can you describe what each meant to different individual actors and groups across the reform spectrum at the time, and how they use different definitions and kind of played with them a little bit for their own benefit.

CF: Sure. I'll start with love because that's something everyone can basically agree on in the book that I talked about, right? You know, beginning with the revolutionary period and the enlightenment, love became much more central to marriage than it had been in the past. It wasn't that there was no love, but it wasn't the basis of the marriage, marriage was about property transfer.

Building wealth was about having children according to English common law. After the American Revolution, in particular in the United States, love and individual choice became more important to marriage and so you have this period where people who believe in legal marriage and are opposed to divorce agree.

BF: That love should be the basis of marriage.

CF: Right and people who are anti-marriage and want to reform the institution of marriage also believe that love should be the basis of marriage. So, they believe in what I call throughout the book “true love”: finding your spiritual soulmate.

Just to bring us back to New York State in this region for a second. Spiritualism as a religious movement was born in this part of New York State and spiritualists in particular believe that true love started during life, but could expand into the Afterlife right? So true love actually was eternal literally for them. And so that was that sort of an exaggeration of the basic position of all who believe in love and the 19th century.

BF: Love was bigger than life for most of these people.

CF: Yeah, and when I talk about marriage, I often have a qualifier with it because there's legal marriage, right? There's the contract between two people, the endorsement of the state and sometimes the church; and so, there's that definition of marriage and then there is the definition of marriage that all the marriage reformers hold. They differentiate between true marriage and false marriage.

They believe true marriage can never be if it is not based on love. It can't be mandated by the state or by other individuals and should be voluntary and done with free will. Once that love is gone, it's no longer a true marriage and you should be able to leave it. False marriages are marriages that are no longer loving, marriages where the couple fights. They don't like each other anymore. The sexual relationship isn't consensual which we can talk about later and they false marriages. They believe as you know, often legal marriages are crimes against the individual and society as well.

BF: Right and also a higher power brings a lot of religious aspects to it. I remember reading they thought it was a crime towards God to commit the so-called adultery during marriage. So, I guess that brings us to adultery and different types and different ways it was used, which I thought was really one of the most interesting aspects—how this one seemed to be used for political purposes the most.

CF: Yeah, so adultery has the most meetings probably in this book and it's often can be confusing because it's counterintuitive, right? So, we would probably define adultery as a violation of the marriage vows, having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Marriage reformers in the 19th century began to classify false marriages, marriages without love, as adulterous marriages.

BF: So, the violation was not having sex outside of the of the marriage bond, the legal marriage bond, but it was having sex with someone you don't love.

CF: Yeah, and that was the violation and the problem. And so, one of the things that you see in this is where feminism and spiritualism and all different reform movements come together is, in particular, they're worried about women being forced to have unwanted sex in marriage. There's no such thing as marital rape by law at the time. And so, the husband basically can enforce his will and part of this whole conversation about marriage is to say that any sex even within the legal institution should be voluntary, consensual, mutual, loving.

BF: I thought that was really important. That's kind of where some interconnections begin is, you know, the women's movement and also abolitionism also seem to arise here with you know, wanting, free consensual sex and love between people. There was a lot of people in marriage reform who thought that if those two institutions, you know marriage and women not having the right to vote and how many other political rights, and slaves of course having no rights whatsoever than just property rights. They thought that they counteracted most of what you know, they believed in, so I thought that was kind of interesting how the love and adultery aspect were spread across the reform spectrum.

CF: Yeah, I mean, I should say for clarification that most of the reformers that I talked about in this book are white. Yes, and that is because for the four million people who were enslaved in the United States, they didn't even have a right to marry. You know, their legal marriages were if they had them, meaningless, the Planters could sell husbands and wives apart, parents and children apart.

So, the desire to achieve the legal right to marry for slaves after emancipation, former slaves wrote also about this consent and control over your own body, had the end idea that African American women should also be able to choose their spouse choose, who they had sex with, and not be vulnerable to rape and abuse was revolutionary for them.

BF: I guess one last thing for clarification, a lot of different types of marriage reform movements arose in the atmosphere that we were just discussing when we talked about the Oneida Community. There was also “Modern Times” led by Steven Pearl Andrews, the “Social Palace,” and then the “Unitary Home,” which we'll get into.

Can you kind of give an overview of how Andrew is different, you know kind of like I guess you could say communes were established on different marriage reform ideals because it their ideas were more religious, whereas Modern Times was much more secular.

Yeah, so probably I mean, I think the Oneida Community is very much an exception because they are founded on the basis of religion and they call their belief system Bible communism, essentially. And so, they're much different than some of the other intentional communities and utopian societies that emerged in the Antebellum United States. Probably the most popular successful form of communitarian experiment was Fourierism. They based it on the philosophy of Charles Fourier, who was a French socialist; and he believed that if people should form communities that would allow them to pursue their passions, whatever that might be, they didn't have to be bogged down by childcare and housework if they are were a woman, of course. Someone has to do the child care in the housework, which is the limitation had and you know, the men could do whatever work that they were suited for and and inspired by and that this this these kinds of passions should be the guiding force in human life not drudgery or force or degrading kinds of work.

And so, there were a plethora of communities across the United States founded on the Phalanx model, you know from Wisconsin all the way to the east coast, and this was probably the most popular and inspiring communitarian movement. And they didn't explicitly address sexual relations in their Philosophy, they did but they sort of politely chose to ignore that and in their dealings and you know, as one member of the Wisconsin Phalanx said, you know, there was never any suggestion of sexual impropriety in our community.

BF: That was for political appearances, correct?

CF: Yeah. Yeah, I mean they were trying to avoid any hint of scandal. To their credit their primary concern was economic and social, but of course part of social is the sexual and emotional and familial, so that was certainly part of it. Other communities as you noted were more explicit in their willingness to cast aside propriety. Yeah, and Modern Times is probably the best example though even that is kind of interesting. So, Steven Pearl Andrews, who you mentioned, is probably the leading free lover of the mid-nineteenth century United States, and he believed in something called individual sovereignty.

This was his philosophy of life, which means that every person, man or woman, should be in control of their body and choose what they do with it. No one, no law, no church, no other human should be able to tell them what to do with it.

And so, Modern Times is a community on Long Island was founded on the philosophy of individual sovereignty, but also this other radical philosophy that was known as cost-the-limit-of-price. So, you wouldn't you wouldn't make money off of anything. You would just exchange profit labor. You would sell things for what they would were worth. In some ways it was not a communitarian experiment at all. It was just an association of individuals who agreed to abide by the same economic philosophy. That community was very scandalous, in part because another very famous free lover, Mary Grove-Nichols also lived in the community. But as I say in the book, you know, Steven Pearl Andrews, for all his belief in free love and self-government, was married twice.

There's no evidence that he ever had sex with anyone besides his wives. You know, he had two children by his first marriage and no other that I know of so, you know, he had all these radical ideas and other people would live them out but not necessarily him. He was more the philosopher.

BF: Do you think that that is what allowed it to sustain itself for so long because I know that he pretty much made himself the face of Modern Times. I realized throughout the book, we can get into it a little bit more, but a lot of the times when these movements begin to fail is when the media gets to discredit the people leading the movement and they get them to the point where the public has no respect for them whatsoever. But Andrews, because he didn't really practice these same ideas even though he's preaching them, kind of seemed like an objective figure to the public in a way. Do you agree with that?

CF: Yeah, I mean he I think he got away with being more of eccentric and weird than a scandalous figure. You know, he was scandalous in some ways, but the people could sort of dismiss him as a you know, he's just crazy. Whereas other people who are actually saying I'm doing these things. This is what I believe in, this is what I practice. Yeah, that were much more controversial.

BF: Okay, that's interesting because it seemed like he, at different points throughout his life was, viewed as outside the box and not included in conversation at times. He was viewed also as a public intellectual that was almost like his opinion was awaited for in the news next newspaper to, you know, see what he had to say about the current debate on marriage reform.

It's kind of interesting because we'll go into more depth on other people. I guess we can begin with John Humphrey Noyes and how his reputation seemed to be the life or death of the Oneida Community in a lot of ways. Do you have any thoughts on that?

CF: Yeah, so John Humphrey Noyes, in the beginning of and at the end of his life, did this very delicate dance right between his religious devotion and fervor. Really, he believed in something called perfectionism, which meant that human beings could be freed from sin on earth, that basically it was an extreme version of evangelicalism and people viewed it as very dangerous because if you are free from sin, if it's impossible, you can't I mean you can do pretty much anything you want, so it was very scandalous. But he would temper his remarks. He would say, I believe ‘this’ but the time hasn't come yet.

Okay, and so when people would do things like have sex outside of marriage which because they were in theory sin-free he would say, oh, no, I didn't authorize that it's not time for that yet. Kingdom of God has not yet arrived on Earth. But as you noted he was in charge when the Kingdom of God was arriving and when it would be time to engage in that and the time came obviously when he was ready for it, you know, when he was  very attracted to someone outside of his own marriage and circumstances change and God speaks.

BF: I also noticed that about him is that he kind of would you know dance around on things a lot and it really revealed his authoritarian nature in a lot of ways how he controlled not only the appearance of the community but also life inside the community in almost every way. Controlling women's bodies, controlling foodways, economic production, religious, everything. I mean, do you think that that kept the community going or do you think that it, maybe, brought the community back or like kind of limited them in a lot of ways? Do you think they flourish more-so without him?

CF: Yeah. I mean, I do think it's a fact that when he began to lose power as he aged and particularly what must have been a very intense sexual Charisma that he had before then, that the community started to falter and eventually turned itself into a corporation and returned to the marriage ways of the world as they would have said.

BF: Do they still produce the cabinet ware and woodwork?

CF: They don't but they did until pretty recently, I think they did through the 80s. It was the original corporation since it's, I think, gone bankrupt and been sold and various other things. You can still buy Oneida flatware, but it's not the same antique. It’s interesting, but he (Noyes), you know, he had the community practice this thing called complex marriage and complex [00:25:00] marriage meant that every consenting adult of the opposite sex was married to every other consenting adult of the opposite sex in the community.

Their definition of adult is loose compared to ours, but for the most part, he emphasized consent. He emphasized that no one should enter into a sexual relationship unwillingly, that it should be an expression of love among community members, but he also didn't want community members having sex in an uncontrolled way.

I guess I would say right he's very opposed to licentiousness and he wants to prove that his method is pure and not sinful. And so, if a couple wanted to have sex, they would have to go through an approval process that ended with him. Similarly, couples weren't allowed to reproduce unless they got approval and so the community practiced a form of birth control known as male continence. For the most part, the sexual relationship of complex marriage seemed to work pretty well for most of the history. I mean there weren't a lot of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies in the community. The community did seem to have a remarkable degree of closeness and love but that doesn't mean that there weren't individuals who did not have a good experience in the community and who are quite thwarted in their own desires.

BF: And I think it was some of the difficulties for the Oneida Community that came about when they got some publicity around some group members that were not acting the way that, I guess, Noyes wanted or just acting, you know scandalously to the public, revealing some true aspects of the Oneida Community. Can you talk a little bit about a little about that?

CF: Yeah, I mean, and this gets us back to our definition of adultery to a certain extent. So, the Oneida Community, I believe moves to New York because adultery is not a crime in New York. So, it's a crime in pretty much every other state in the United States at that time, but not New York State and so they had originally been based in Vermont.

But they've been driven out of Vermont basically by the threat of legal charges of adultery. And so, they moved to New York state. New York state did allow civil suits called criminal conversation for adultery, but it was something different. You couldn't be put in jail for adultery in New York state and so they moved to New York State. Of course, they have to find a place to live that's going to be accepting of them in a variety of ways. One of the ways that they do this is they marry two young converts, one a woman named Tryphena Hubbard who's from a local family. They marry her to another young comic convert named Henry Seymour who's in the community.

Now this is after the kingdom of God Has Come. Yeah, you know everyone's practicing complex marriage. So, it's very interesting that this young man and this young woman get legally married and then join the community on the same day. Literally, it's the same date, August 18th, 1848.

BF: Is there any recollection of when they met for the first time? Was it a quick process?

CF: It was definitely a quick process. I mean, he did some obligatory courting and meeting her family and things like that, but it was fairly quick and so the two were married but then something goes wrong in the marriage and it's unclear quite what that is, but something seemed to cause a mental health crisis in Tryphena. I speculate that it is because she wants her Freedom. She wants to have sex with other members of the community, but she is prevented from making that choice, right? She needs approval of the elders.

You're not supposed to do it in excess you're not supposed to do it too much with the same person and she feels trapped. She feels trapped and ultimately this is the way that you know, both disobedient wives and the mentally ill are treated in this period of the nineteenth century. Henry beats her and ultimately the Oneida Community pays for her to go to the Utica insane asylum, but she remains a member of the of the Oneida Community until her death. So, as I say in the book, she is sort of trapped both by complex marriage and legal marriage which essentially gives Henry the right to do these things to her and it shows how both are very problematic for women.

BF: The whole time her family was pushing back against this, correct? I think you said that one of the reasons you thought that they got married was so that she could leave and join the community or else her family wouldn't have accepted it; and I believe that after this whole mental health episode they had children together.

CF: They had more than one child. Yeah, they had a daughter and so as I say, she must have consented to that, even though her feelings about Henry must have been very harmed to say the least.

BF: Was she able to have other relations with other people afterwards? Is there any record? I imagine they didn't like write it down like.

CF: Yeah, they didn't really write it down. So, in the Syracuse University Library are most of the Oneida Community papers and in the file for Tryphena Hubbard Seymour, there actually are love letters from her to another member of the community. It's unclear if they ever consummated their love.

BF: Just curious, she, after this whole episode, comes back and seems to be integrated into the community almost like nothing happened. It was very strange, like the community was cleaning up a mess. I thought that was a very interesting case and you kind of contrasted it with the case of Mary Cragin and how she had a pretty positive experience in the Oneida Community. You seem to suggest that this is just because she accepted Noyes’s authoritarian nature, that she kind of submitted to him, whereas Tryphena was more resilient and fought for individual sovereignty a little bit more. Do you think that eventually Tryphena kind of went over to Mary’s side and that's why she was brought into the community integrated a little more, or do you think it was more of like a sit back and think I can't do anything?

CF: Well, I mean, I think the important thing to remember is these are all very religious individuals, you know, and they believe to a certain extent.

BF: I think they say this about Mary Cragin after she dies, right? That that her Holiness comes from overcoming? You have all these struggles and you rely on your faith in God and your faith in Noyes and the community and that what you believe in to get you through this.

CF: I think Tryphena probably was a true believer in some ways and had to ultimately suppress her own will to fit in to the community.

BF: Yeah, and at the time the only basis for divorce was adultery in New York I think until 1966. She would probably never have even considered getting a divorce from a husband who beat her and made her insane and controlled her religious views. So that a lot of different things happening at the same time here. We talked about Steven Pearl Andrews a little bit and I thought it would be helpful to go into him a little bit more and his background and how he came to be such a radical public intellectual scandalous writer. How did he get to that point? 

CF: Yeah, he's a very interesting character, you know, because I like the biographical form. I almost wrote a biography of him. he's such an extreme figure that he's, this is one of my arguments in the book, that he's easily dismissed. Right? He's easily dismissed as a freak with no impact, but he actually has quite a huge impact over the course of the 19th century in a variety of ways on American society. I mean I will say first he's an intellectual, he speaks, or at least claims to speak, many languages. He invents his own language called Alwato, which I did not bother trying to learn. I don't think anyone knows how to speak it. Yeah, it works out and he wrote like many books of philosophy and his various theories of the universe.

Okay, it came across to me that he was, you know seem to be quite educated and quite you know smart. Incorporating his philosophical ideas into his more social ideas, and he's from the north, but he moves to the South to teach school. He hates slavery, but he thinks marriage is worse than slavery as an institution that limits human freedom and so he becomes a Critic of slavery in the South.

A critic of marriage even though then he gets married, it's really when his efforts to end slavery fail that he becomes the person he is going to be which is he makes this crazy effort to get England to annex Texas. He's on his solo diplomatic mission, you know across the Atlantic Ocean but so he doesn't succeed, it does the opposite, but he brings back with him Pitman’s Shorthand.

BF: Which he thinks can revolutionize the way people communicate right?

CF: He thinks that reading and writing in English is incredibly difficult, that if you teach people shorthand, it's much easier to grasp. He very famously teaches four illiterate black men to read shorthand on a public stage in Boston. It becomes almost a social movement, he has Americans all over the place taking classes in what he'll call phonography, which is Pitman’s Shorthand, and it starts careers for people. So, Edward Underhill who's another character in the book becomes a phonographer for the New York Daily Tribune.

He becomes the official stenographer in, I can't remember which New York Court it is but one of the New York courts, and so basically makes careers and it's a talent and a skill that people want to have because they view it as useful, right? If you're trying to record someone’s speeches, people in the 19th century give really long speeches right? It's very useful to have the shorthand skill, right? So, you have women and men becoming reporters and stenographers throughout the 19th century. And also, because they're in the newspaper business, they're also kind of Bohemians in some ways, right. It's a profession that allows for a little bit of flaunting of respectability to a certain extent and you're living in New York City.

There are all sorts of things going on. That is where Steven Pearl Andrews first makes his Mark and as he does this, he then starts beginning to talk about individual sovereignty and switches from being the chief proponent of Pitman’s Shorthand to being the chief proponent of individual sovereignty, which is more widely known by the term “free love.” Basically, individuals—man or woman—should have the right to love who they want, when they want.

BF: I guess that we can kind of talk about how free love was kind of, you know, a bad label in the U.S. Press at the time. I came across how, most of the time, when someone wanted to discredit any individual or leader, they would call them a free lover and that would immediately get the public's opinion the respected public's opinion against them. So that's an interesting case. I guess we can just talk about definitions and, in general, it seems like in this point in US history and throughout, definitions have been altered and changed to fit the time. You know, you kind of get that from you know, the alteration of like the 14th Amendment to include, you know, like corporations instead of just people.

But it kind of seems like around this time is when that movement starts to arise of different political actors using different definitions against each other to level different labels and things like that. Do you think that the press that they got from being labeled as free lovers was bad or good? Do you think because, I mean it was bad label, but it also put them out there a lot more often than they would have otherwise? I mean more people heard their stories than they would have because they were labeled the so-called radicals.

CF: Yeah, I mean, certainly being labeled something unites you as a community. That they could identify with each other in their shared beliefs, that marriage was a problem that needed to be solved, that it was inhibiting people's freedom and limiting people's ability to choose their own life. It had that unifying effect, but I think it's one of these terms that you know, everyone's playing with that no one really knows what it means. Noyes claims that he invents the term free love. I don't know that that's true or not, but he ultimately uses complex marriage.

Stephen Pearl Andrews certainly advocates free love and wouldn't deny it to anyone. But he uses the term individual sovereignty and Victoria Woodhull does say I am a free lover. You know, she very really puts it out there and Andrews will get women, you know, Julia Branch first and then Victoria Woodhull second, to make these radical claims on his behalf, maybe just because they're more attractive spokespeople for the position, but he definitely has a lot of acolytes.

It depends on whether you're scandalized by it or not, you know, and so the Women's Rights Movement spent a lot of time denying that they want any free love. But at the same time, they have many of the same criticisms of marriage that the free lovers did, you know, and those were overlapping. The Spiritualists definitely didn't use the term free love because they believed ultimately in monogamy. They believed in monogamy that was voluntary but permanent.

BF: Yeah, I guess in different definitions of adultery and love we can continue on this subject the case of Mary Booth, and I hope I pronounce it right, Mathilda Anneke. They seem to really display the different definitions of adultery and love at the time. They're both in relationships. Mary was in one where she very much wasn't happy and Mathilda kind of seemed indifferent towards her spouse. They ultimately ended up together in Switzerland living as a couple. So, it was kind of interesting to me how they were so radical on the spectrum, you know being in a lesbian relationship, that they weren't viewed as adulteress because no one thought about it, you know, no one thought that it could be the case. It's interesting how they weren't labeled as adulterous but it kind of allowed them to practice this true love or whatever they pictured. You know, it kind of makes me think of how extreme radicalism often is allowed in the U.S. Because it goes unnoticed. Do you think that was because they were so?

CF: No one expected it. That's why they're allowed this little haven in Switzerland and it was referred to yeah, you know, Sherman Booth Mary Booth’s husband. He actually accuses her of having an affair with Mathilda Anneke's husband Fritz because he couldn't even imagine that she would have been having an affair with Mathilda herself, you know, so it was basically unimaginable.

For them, you know, they could not even dream it in there their wildest jealousies and speculations and in many ways the fact that they didn't have to worry about legal marriage, what people thought you know, any of the other things that heterosexual couples had to adopt to worry about that. They just did what they felt, and they were very passionately in love, at least that's what I have concluded about their relationship during some other quotes and from their letters back and forth.

It was definitely very, very emotional and passionate, I think more so than a lot of other relationships that you go over that were heterosexual. It really came across to me that even though they have this little small window, I think they were there for five years or even shorter. Yeah for four years. They seem to practice this true love, you know ideal, to the best of any other relationship and I think you kind of talked about how a lot of these marriage reformers found that the ideal form of what they wanted to practice often happened in homosexual relationships. Were there more cases than just them?

CF: No, I mean I think you know, I briefly talked about Marie Howland and her possible relationships with women, particularly Ada Clare the actress, but that's pretty much it, you know, and that's speculative, though they definitely shared a bed. But a lot of people shared beds in the 19th century.

BF: Yeah, it seemed very interesting how you know, this radicalism was successful for a time until she (Mary Booth) had to go back because her husband pretty much just blackmailed Mary Booth until she had to go back, and then ends up dying [00:46:00] very quickly. You could say she had a broken heart in a way.

I imagine that there's not as much of a record of homosexual relationships at the time, but it seems like they, I mean they practiced something that a lot of these other reformers couldn't. Something you talk about is how they a lot of them cannot practice what they preach, and you know, like Steven Pearl Andrews practices monogamous marriage even though he was advocating for individual sovereignty and it’d be pretty perplexing to see how  one case was very successful and that was cut short.

 But I guess that could take us, as you mentioned Marie Howland, and we could go to her book Papa's Own Girl, which was pretty extreme and radical, especially to get it published at the time. Can you talk just a little bit about what that was about?

CF: I'll just start to briefly talk about who Marie Howland is because she's not, none of these people are really household names, but you know, she definitely is not a household name, but she started as a little mill girl. She started working in the mills in Massachusetts and eventually she moves to New York and starts teaching. And there she falls in with a crowd that's definitely Bohemian and her first husband Lyman Case basically educates her and it's a little bit of a Pygmalion relationship. The couple, they move in all these Bohemian circles, you know, they go to clubs in New York City and they you know, hang out with writers and they probably know Walt Whitman and because they're moving in the same circles. They say the couple moves to the Unitary Home run by Edward Underhill, who's a protege of Steven Pearl Andrews, and they ultimately kind of embrace the freedom of the community. I think Marie Howland probably had at least, you know, one sexual encounter with another member of the community—Edmund Clarence Stedman.

He became a very well-known poet and ultimately is one party at the unitary home. She meets another man and Lyman Case says to her, this is who you're supposed to be with, Edward Holland, you know, this is the man you're supposed to be with and he gives her a divorce.

BF: They kind of manufacture the divorce, right, because it was planned with it with the prostitute?

CF: Yeah. So basically, they manufacture instance of adultery with a prostitute between Lyman Case and a prostitute named Antoinette Mueller.

BF: Was she a prostitute before or was she just given that label afterwards? This was one thing that I wasn't clear about. I was wondering if this woman gave up a reputation for this. I want to know more about her.

CF: I mean she probably had a fake name is yeah, but I would guess, you know, the prostitutes changed their name quite a bit. So, whatever it was, it was enough evidence for the court who gave them their divorce and then real and married Edward Holland and remained married to him till his death.

She was at first a Fourierist, I would say, and then she becomes enamored of another French socialist, Godin, who forms a community in Guise, France called the Familistere or Social Palace. It's a basically a massive 1500 person commune that y all the workers are engaged in the same industry. In Godin’s case, it was iron manufacturing, but they live in this Palace basically. Because he believes that they have to be able to be materially and personally and intellectually fulfilled as workers and it was physically a palace. All of his money exactly is pretty important to their movement. How much wealth was going through there didn’t particularly get wealthy people excited. Yeah, it's also the flaw in the movement right as you need to find these wealthy individuals who are so [00:51:00] charitable or philanthropic philanthropic or True Believers that they're going to invest their money in this these social schemes, but the same is true of the Fourier movement as well.

So, Marie Howland writes a novel published in 1872 in which she imagines a European nobleman somewhat like Godin coming to a New England town and building a social palace for the workers in that town and sort of transforming the economy and the well-being of the workers in the community. In it, the two heroines of the novel are two people who are basically social outcasts. One is a divorcee and the other has a child out of wedlock, you know, and they become business partners and grow and sell flowers. Ultimately their nursery business becomes the business of the social palace in the city, and one of the heroines ultimately marries the European nobleman and gives birth in the social Palace and the nobleman also adopts the child who was born outside of marriage as well, so you know it all happy ending. Yes, but it was as you noted banned by the Boston Public Library and viewed as to scandalous. But in it, she propounds all sorts of her radical ideas about the freedom of the individual and rejection of social conformity and the importance of true love and following your heart regardless of the consequences.

BF: Very interesting. I guess we could talk a little bit, as we're on the topic, about the Free Lover’s Club that developed in New York City and it struck me that this seems like one of the first major intellectual movements and kind of wave, getting this circle of people in New York City at the time that was really based on pretty progressive liberal ideals. Can you just talk about what that was like?

CF: Yeah. I mean I guess so.  The Free Love Club in New York City was founded by the same people who found Modern Times, essentially. It's basically an extension of it in the city, and it's supposed to be. These are all socialists. They're all cosmopolitan's, some of them are European or have emigrated from Europe, but some of them are watching European socialism evolve. They are, you know, the critics of the American society as it is, they're not so critical of slavery as I made clear in the book. Although they probably would tell you that they were opposed to slavery but it's not their main issue and so they are really interested in talking about ideas, sharing ideas. They're really practitioners of a small d democracy, right? They want to bring people together. And so, the Free Love Club is really a club to talk about ideas. Let's educate each other. Let's come listen to lectures, we’ll have some wholesome conversation and will be better people because of it. So, both women and men go and it becomes the focus of a lot of newspaper attention. The role of newspapers is very interesting right?

Because obviously there's a lot of journalists going to the Free Love Club and living there. They live at the Unitary Home. And so, they basically have this, I don't know, I guess it's kind of ironic right they can make news about things that they're participating in draw and in one way, they're advertising the Free Love Club by writing about it, but they're also fomenting this scandal and ultimately the Free Love Club is raided by the police. Albert Brisbane who's one of the first journalists to write about Fourier in the United States is arrested. He's ultimately released but you know becomes this big scandal in the Free Love Club, it’s closed down.

BF: Yeah, it was really interesting how it you know, they seem to want just like this feeling of a commune in the urban life didn't want to move out of their urban center, but they wanted some feeling of that and then it just gets labeled as a brothel and absolutely just degraded to a point. Like any other radical progressive movement in the United States, it gets taken out by violent Force. So, it's not too unlike, I think other cases in US history, but I guess we should move on to more legal cases, maybe first the Richardson-McFarland case, which was quite interesting. This deals with a divorce and then a murder all in the same day as a marriage, right?

CF:  Yeah, so I basically in the book I see two major periods for this marriage reform movement as I'm calling it. Before the Civil War, they're advocating free love, individual sovereignty, or true love through marriage versus false marriage, right? And after the Civil War they use the model of the Civil War to start to take action. They're going to wage war on marriage essentially and the McFarland-Richardson case becomes a national scandal, but it becomes their first opportunity to really talk about marriage after the Civil War and to make a case for marriage being a problematic institution.

BF: Because there were some people who thought there was going to be another civil war over marriage, correct?

CF: Exactly, people thinking that sides were gathering and yeah, and so in this case Daniel McFarland and Abby McFarland were a married couple but she accused him of being drunk and abusive and she may have been hanging out with some of these same newspaper Bohemian journalist crowd. He was jealous and all of that.

She goes to Indiana to get a divorce, Indiana's the state with the most liberal divorce laws at that time, and she goes to Indiana to get a divorce and she comes back. And she marries Albert Richardson who is one of these journalists with the New York Tribune and she doesn't marry him. She's going to marry him, but Daniel McFarland shoots him and ultimately kills him.

But before Albert Richardson dies Henry Ward Beecher, who's the most famous minister in America, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Katherine Beecher, son of Lyman Beecher. He marries Abby and Albert Richardson on his deathbed. Yeah, and so there's you know, tons of newspaper coverage, Daniel McFarland is ultimately tried for murder, but he is acquitted of murder because the courts decided that he was in his rights as a husband to shoot his wife's lover.

So, based on New York law it was not acknowledging the Indiana divorce at all, which when you have different states with different laws, it does present legal problem.

BF: So, you mentioned Henry Ward Beecher, it'd probably be good to segue into what might be the most infamous case that you talked about, which is his case of adultery where he (Beecher) was accused by Victoria Woodhull and Steven Pearl Andrews of committing adultery and actually believing in a lot of the free lover ideas.

They kind of label him a hypocrite while also displaying to the public on full display what he's been doing behind their back, and you mentioned he's probably the most infamous religious figure in America—even pertinent to Syracuse. You know, there's a Plymouth Congregational Church that's still in Syracuse today. It was based off of his Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. This shocked the nation. Can you talk about why Woodhull and Andrews went to this and I guess we can we can talk about how the case went with Beecher and Elizabeth and Theodore Tilton, this ultimately ended up being quite an ugly case.

CF: Yeah. So, as I said, the reformers get much more aggressive after the Civil War and they basically launched a two-pronged attack and the attack on Beecher's the first wave of that attack. I call it adultery as civil disobedience because they're going to risk arrest for various things in this period, only one of which is adultery. Stephen Pearl Andrews and Victoria Woodhull seem to have been plotting this exposé ever since they met each other. Okay, and Stephen Pearl Andrews knew about it ahead of time. He helped her write the exposé in her own newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly and it came out in November 1872. Woodhull is arrested for obscenity and spends several months in jail for obscenity for publishing obscene materials.

BF: And that was a newer law after the Civil War, correct? Was it 67 or 66?

CF: Yeah, it's a newer state law. And of course, they'll be a federal law that follows named after the person who arrests her, Anthony Comstock, the Comstock Law. Initially, not much happens. Beecher denies it, people generally keep quiet, and Tilton agrees not to talk. Ultimately, Tilton’s life is ruined by this scandal because he had written Victoria Woodhull should run for president. He wrote her campaign biography.

It was free lovers, he was very connected with free lovers and feminists and he was the editor of The Independent, I believe, and it was basically Henry Ward Beecher’s mouthpiece for a while, but then the two had a falling out, as they were they were best friends. Tilton's life is quite destroyed by this. His marriage is over, he's on the outs with Beecher, and what day can he find good work? He ultimately sues Beecher for criminal conversation and it's a slog of a trial that goes on for about a hundred days. I mean, it's just grueling publicity across the knee and the newspapers are reporting on every single day every single word. That's said in that trial, but basically what's on trial? In addition to Beecher who is ultimately acquitted is free love, right, and it's basically an argument over who practices free love. Is it Henry Ward Beecher? To Beecher’s defense, it's Tilton who's the free lover. It's a trial over free love and free love is quite damaged as a result. Stephen Pearl Andrews testifies at the trial and you know, he comes across as the radical that he is.

That is one aggressive wave of the post-war marriage reform movement. The other also takes place in the pages of Woodhull and Claflin Weekly and that is Moses Hull basically publishing his own personal experience saying, you know, I'm a married man, but my wife and I have decided that it is much better for our marriage, our personal relationship, our sexual relationship, if we have an open marriage. Essentially, he writes into the paper about his personal experience, his wife writes in, Elvira Hull, about her personal experience, and ultimately, he risks arrest himself. He isn't ultimately, he and his second wife, although it's unclear if they ever actually marry, Mattie Sawyer, are arrested briefly in New Jersey, but are ultimately let go. You are risking arrest when you publish things like this.

BF: I was pretty baffled that he evaded Comstock.

CF: Yes. I mean we made it clear he basically was running a crusade across New York and the nation on obscenity that would impact the nation for many years to come.

BF: So, I guess we can talk about, after covering the subject in depth, kind of more of an opinion question. Do you think adultery should be considered a criminal or civil matter? If you have any take on it, if you don't, you don't have to answer.

CF: I think it probably should be a personal matter. Ultimately, even though the reformers that I'm talking about were real radicals, extremists considered Fanatics in the 19th century, ultimately their views have become mainstream, right? We all believe in serial monogamy and practice serial monogamy. Inside or outside of marriage we don’t view people who divorces pariahs, you know, if adultery happens, well divorce can happen. But if the couple chooses to work it out no one's judging anyone on those issues. And certainly, we believe that people should choose who they love and have sex with, so in some ways their ideas have become very mainstream. So, in a way, it's almost become not a criminal matter in any way because of these ideas.

BF: You know, the movements themselves didn't come to fruition the way that they were planned, as they never really do. You know, communes, intentional communities, and radical movements. Do you consider the reform movements to be complete failures? What do you think their impact in the present day is? I think the marriage reformers had a bigger impact than we might expect, given how vilified they were in the 19th century, because it seems like they are just absolutely just killed.

CF: Yeah, it's like just gone over here one day and gone the next. Yeah, and they were saying things that people agreed with at the time and that we agree with now, that love should be the basis for marriage, that you should consent to sex, that you should have sex with people you love. These are not controversial sentiments in any way shape or form. They just were at the time when people are trying to defend legal marriage thought, but it was just the people in power preventing it from being said and so that you know, I think that they had a big impact on American society. But it was potentially more subtle than they would have liked.

BF: So you think that after they were kind of out of the picture—the figures themselves and their movements—do you think people kind of sat back and thought, maybe they weren't entirely wrong; maybe they had a good idea there. Do you think it was more subconscious?

CF: Well, it took ultimately at least two more waves of reform to really change marriage into what we know today. Well, I guess three waves of Reform, so in the early 20th century you have much less separation between the sections, much more idea about friendship between men and women and that kind of friendship leading to love and companionship, and that's what you know marriage should be about, so there's another wave in the early 20th century then obviously in the 20th century you have the feminist movement, which really tackles some of these remaining legal obstacles to women's equality in marriage. And then finally you have the marriage equality movement, you know, so there really are subsequent reformers that follows in such a radical form.

BF: Yeah and make it palatable for their time. It seems, you mention it took three reform movements, it seems like a lot of these reformers in the mid 19th century was all-or-bust. It was like they were trying to get it pushed through and I think it was a result of the fervent times. With the sectional divide and the Civil War and everything, people saw avenues for immediate change and I think they push for it really hard and we see that in a different movement in the 60s and I think we're starting to see it again today where you know, people are really upset about things and it's like an all-or-nothing kind of mindset, and I don't know if it's helpful or not.

CF: I guess we'll have to see.

BF: Yeah, but to begin wrapping up, it seemed throughout the book that the so-called elites were more adulterous than the members of the lower classes, based on cases you shared and in many more that we're seeing today. Do you consider adultery to be like a luxury for the rich in a way or maybe even a game perhaps? You see these celebrity marriages and they get divorced after three years and then they're in another marriage.

CF: To a certain extent. I mean, I think the elites, and by the elites I would say the middle class, has really bring it on themselves, right because the middle class is essentially saying, you know part of what makes us middle class is that we are going to be respectable and behave in a certain way. So, we're going to prioritize marriage. We're going to prioritize sexual self-control, fear of being lowered even further to impurity. And so, they actually then begin enforcing a lot of their own sexual values on. Working people in the United States, poor people in the United States, they want to make them conform to their own definition of what marriage and sexuality should be so I would say that the lower classes are actually much more free in this regard than the middle classes, who basically create a respectability trap for themselves.

BF: So, then I guess we can kind of look at the upper classes doing this, the middle classes are creating this with the upper-class divorcing so much. They probably look at it as like. Well, everything's run by money now, but they probably eat it up. You know, it's entertainment and they look at it. Like, oh, I wish I could do that. There's probably part of everyone that seems like okay, they're very free right now and I wish I could do that. So, we buy tabloids and newspapers and watch it online and everything. So. I guess the middle class drives it in a lot of ways.

CF: I mean they also view that more aristocratic behavior, you know, and their attention was often on England and in this yeah time period as well as decadent and undemocratic, right? So, it's about democratic values being the ones of the middle classes or they perceived it in that way and we're you know, this is one of the first instances of middle class is being really established in this country.

BF: You mentioned Mill girls and other working people. Do you think that there's a different meaning of divorce for each class and each gender and race? We talked about marriage being different for the African American Community right after slavery, for freed men and women it was radical change for them. I mean it was freedom in a lot of ways, whereas a lot of people were viewing it as slavery. There are these marriage reformers comparing marriage to slavery, whereas slaves were like no, this is freedom. And yeah, so it's a little bit of white privilege to criticize marriage, right?

To bring us back to Henry Ward Beecher, I thought it was interesting how he almost seemed to use the case to his advantage and in a way, get public support and things like that and we're kind of seeing, you know, people that are getting with the Me Too Movement and people that are being called out for their you know, sexual misdeeds and other things. People like Justin Fairfax, who is the lieutenant governor of Virginia. He was accused of sexual assault and he now thinks that it improved his public image and increased his visibility. He thinks that it's a good thing that he was accused because he's using it to his advantage and Beecher kind of tried to use it to his advantage a little bit. You know what Trump is like this every time, it's what 23 sexual assault allegations now, I believe after the last one. Every time he uses it as an opportunity to show his strength, to show that he’s not bowing down to the Liberals and everything. So do you think of the Beecher case as an example of someone in power using their misdeeds to their advantage?

CF: Yeah, I don't know that he, I mean Henry Ward Beecher ever. He remained the leader of his very large congregation. He remained an influential Minister. I don't think he was undamaged by it. I do think he lost a little bit of his moral authority, but he was in some ways untouchable that he came out relatively unscathed. It's hard to say why exactly that was but I think he successfully was able to paint his accusers as free lovers, that they're the ones who are the disruptors. They are the ones who throw out, you know, moral values.

BF: I don't think he ended up in a better place than he was before but it just seemed like he used his accusation as the fuel for his defense almost like he just took it and spun it around and that's what these guys really do is they take this negative press and love to turn it into positive press and it's really difficult for people on the other side to look at that. I personally have difficulty understanding how the public can look at this and then still think, hey that's you know, great, whatever, especially in the mid 19th century. I would expect a preacher accused of adultery to be even cast off and not considered but I think it might be an American thing. Just take these people and put them on a pedestal and then every time someone takes a crack at the pedestal too. People don't want it to go away I guess. They want these big men to be perfect.

I’d like to wrap up with some more current event things. You talked about the progression of the marriage reform movements and the later feminists and there was you know, a free love movement in the 60s.  But throughout this whole thing we see that the reformers cannot do what they say that they want to do and I think it's a case with every human is that we always preach this perfect thing, but then when it actually comes us doing it we have such a difficulty practicing it ourselves. I mean, back to Stephen Pearl Andrews again, you say you'd have all these accolades around him basically know living his ideas for him because he for some reason couldn't do it himself.

Do you think that this hypocrisy shows the weakness of the movement or the strength? They're weak in the sense that they can't do it, but they're strong in the sense that they reveal their humanity through it.

CF: Well, so here's the interesting thing about the movement, right? Which is what do they actually try to achieve? We know the abolition movement, their goal was to abolish slavery. So, some of these people wanted to abolish marriage, but what were they actually doing to abolish marriage? Right? Others want liberal divorce. Look, more liberal divorce laws. So, marriage can be entered into and exited at will but they aren't actually working on the political or legislative level in any way shape or form, even in legal realm to a certain extent there not, aside from Beecher/Tilton. Where are they really trying to shape the case? They're not.  They're all about ideas.  And they try and put them into practice sometimes in their own lives, but they're not really seeking actual political or legal change. It's just a brand of idealism in a way. Yeah, and so there is no way for them to achieve their goals in some ways.

What they’re really good at is spreading their message and they do that through newspapers. They do that through lectures and they probably reach and persuade a lot of people. They publish books, but they don't actually create change. The change has to be on the individual level and in the way, people live their lives and ultimately, that is where it starts to change first.

BF: That's probably why most of these beliefs are practice and you know, these small communes are everything, because it's easier to manage all these people when you cut yourself from off from society, but we still see that those small communities were not able to do what they said unless there is a central figure that was kept telling them and then that figure was always contradicting. I mean Noyes was contradicting himself, but he was in charge of the whole thing. And without him the community wouldn't have function. Andrews without his ideas, you know currently refueling the [01:21:00] community. They would have been even less structured than they were. So, I guess what I'm asking is, do you think that the model of a reform could ever succeed in that way? It's such a broad task, with such a large democracy. We call America a democracy, but it's so big. It's almost impossible to even pretend to call it that, so do you think that these reform movements will ever quote, unquote succeed because most of the time they are about failure and dissemination of views. Then go back to it in the future when things aren't as conservative around the subject.

CF: Yeah, I mean II think they can succeed if they form legal and political partnerships, that they get people who are working from the mainstream and seeking reform rather than revolution. They’re willing to temper their ideas and marriage equality is a great example of really quick dramatic change in the way Americans see marriage as an institution and that came from activists as well as lawyers, politicians, and the Supreme Court all working in different ways to make it happen.

BF: I think it's so difficult in this day and age with all these different movements, like student movements to get racism and diversity issues on college campuses figured out and different movements around free speech and it t can kind of get a little cynical when there's not much room to budge. But I think it's helpful to know that these movements never succeed. At first that's always a lot of failure to get to where they can actually produce something. So and it's a long slog, right?

CF: Yeah, you know, it's it took decades and decades and decades of labor for the abolitionists to create a context for people's minds to change during the Civil War and then a hundred more years for people to change their minds on civil rights.

BF: Yeah, and I mean there's still much more work to be done. I think we can talk about the failures of reconstruction forever.

I think that's a good note to end on, that these reform movements are long processes and in the technological age that we live in now, we expect instantaneous gratification and instantaneous change. I don't think the time period for reform has really changed much, American politics and society hasn’t altered very much while technology has gone way ahead. So, it's helpful to know that while it might take 50 years, eventually you're going to get somewhere.

Is there anything else that you'd like to cover today?

CF: No, thank you so much for interviewing me, Ben.

BF: This will be out on September 9th. And the full name, Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth Century America and it will be out in September with the University of Pennsylvania Press. Thank you very much.