cover image Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice

Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice

Emily Midorikawa. Counterpoint, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64009-230-3

Historian Midorikawa (coauthor, The Secret Sisterhood) delivers an entertaining and informative group biography of six women who led Spiritualist movements in the U.S. and England in the late 19th century. Arguing that the Fox sisters (Leah, Maggie, and Kate), Emma Hardinge Britten, Victoria Woodhull, and Georgina Weldon leveraged their mystical and theatrical talents to access public platforms otherwise disallowed to women of the era, Midorikawa details her subjects’ shifting relationships with family members, promoters, and detractors. By channeling the spirits of deceased male authorities including Benjamin Franklin and the ancient Greek statesman Demosthenes, Midorikawa explains, female spiritualists were able to make forthright demands for gender equality, as Britten did in her 1859 speech “The Place and Mission of Woman.” Midorikawa also describes how these “strikingly modern” women drew on their connections with powerful men to push beyond their occult celebrity into the realms of politics, finance, and social activism, and highlights how female spiritualists interacted with the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements. Midorikawa doesn’t stint on the drama, detailing money troubles, sisterly discord, poor marital choices, and fraud accusations as she builds a persuasive case for the Spiritualist movement’s considerable influence on “the journey toward female empowerment.” Women’s history buffs will be enthralled. Photos. (May)