Heaven's Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr and Madwoman

Leigh Eric Schmidt, Author
Leigh Erich Schmidt, Basic, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-465-00298-6
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Ebook - 353 pages - 978-0-465-02294-6
Open Ebook - 353 pages - 978-1-299-71426-7
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Schmidt (Restless Souls), a Harvard University specialist in American religious history, illuminates the darkened life of Ida Craddock by aiming a spotlight at each subtitled role. Craddock (b. 1857) was a clairaudient of a husband who appeared to her only in spirit; a self-taught scholar (Schmidt calls her "a dedicated egghead"); an unmarried sexologist who specialized in studying phallic worship and in reforming marriage; a martyr hounded to suicide in 1902; and a maniac, at least according to her embarrassed mother. In telling Craddock's story, Schmidt ably crisscrosses time lines, beginning with Craddock's defense of belly dancing as foreplay at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and ending with a rundown of her loves. His erudite-lite style turns a bit purple only in the last paragraph ("the paired wings of eros and Divine love"). Mostly, he lets sources speak for themselves—not easy with Craddock herself, given how much of her writing was destroyed by her mother and censorious nemesis Anthony Comstock. When the words are Schmidt's, he writes with sobriety, reaching for double entendres only occasionally. (Dec. 7)
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