Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography

(Item #5037) Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography. Consent, Mary Gove Nichols.
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography
The first American woman's autobiography to intimately discuss sexual consent and female pleasure in marriage
Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography

New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1855. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding embossed in blind with gilt to spine. Mauve endpapers. Measuring 185 x 125 inches and collating complete: 388, [32, adverts]. Spine faded and gently rolled; mild wear to cloth of extremities. Hinges sound and textblock firm. Faded contemporary ownership inscription to front endpaper: "When thow art borrowed by friends right welcome it shall be to read or copey not to lend but to return to me not that imparted knowledge - don't diminish learning's store - but books when lent often I find return to me no more. Hannah -----." Scattered foxing throughout, most heavily on pages 180-181 and 362-363, else unmarked. A surprisingly scarce work advocating for sexual consent and freedom in marriage, OCLC records 17 hardcopies in the U.S. and it last appeared at auction in 1961.

"The most widely read book of the 1850s free love advocacy was Mary Gove Nichols' pioneering narrative of a woman who makes a poor choice with her first husband but breaks free of him and develops intimate relationships with other male companions. When she finally meets a serious lover, she plans to live with him in defiance of society's disapproval. At the last minute, a divorce from the first husband materializes, allowing the book to have a conventional happy ending with marriage to the new man. Yet the bride voices highly unusual vows: 'In marriage with you, I resign no right of my soul. I enter into no compact to be faithful to you. I only promise to be faithful to the deepest love of my heart. If that love is yours, it will bear fruit to you and enrich your life -- our life. If my love leads me from you, I must go.' Labeled 'An Autobiography,' the novel-like book engaged readers' sympathies for a wife stuck in an unloving marriage...It was the first American woman's autobiography to treat these issues and furnish disclosures about intimate marital relations" (Public and Print Cultures of Sex).

Mary Gove Nichols' book was one piece of a larger life and career dedicated to the belief "that a woman had the right to say no to sex" as well as "the right to say yes, and the right to say yes to whomever she saw fit" (Public and Print Cultures of Sex). Following her unhappy marriage to a conservative Quaker husband, she was motivated to publicly advocate for women's expanded sexual knowledge. "In 1838 she worked up a twelve-part lecture course on women's physiology...including one on female masturbation aimed at young women, and one restricted to married women only on women's right to regulate sex in marriage" and within two years she was advocating that "wives had a right to say no" (Public and Print Cultures of Sex). Upon her second marriage, to activist Thomas Nichols who similarly supported women's rights to sexual expression, abortion, and consent within and outside of marriage, she expanded her outreach. This autobiography was a crucial embrace of her own identity and "illuminated the lives of everyday people...with nonmainstream ideas about sexuality...letting them know that others like them existed" (Public and Print Cultures of Sex). The contemporary ownership inscription in the front of this copy reveals that young women were, indeed, reading, lending, sharing, and copying what Mary Gove Nichols had to say.
Very Good + (Item #5037)

Price: $1,500