Academic. State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, Old Westbury, NY, associate professor of American studies.
Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.
An associate professor of American studies at the State University of New York's College in Old Westbury, New York, Amanda Frisken published her first book, Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America, in 2004. The book examines a six-year period, from 1870 to 1876, when the nineteenth-century feminist Victoria Claflin Woodhull earned celebrity status. The book examines the significant periods of her life, including her attempts to create a general consensus on women's sexual oppression, her efforts to group together those in favor of political theater, the creation of a civil disobedience program to create difficulties for laws that did not support equality between the sexes, and the rise and fall of her radical techniques to bring attention to her platform and her interaction with the media.
Alison M. Parker, writing on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, critiqued the book, stating that "unlike her more compelling sections on the sporting paper images and Victoria Woodhull's commercialism, Frisken's claims regarding the connections between Woodhull and Republican Radical Reconstruction need to be more fully developed to be convincing." Parker concluded, however, that the author's "well-written study of Woodhull fruitfully explores the complicated interactions between the popular press, radical sexual politics, and commercial entertainment in the 1870s. It will be of interest to historians and students of women since it explores the public life of one of the most controversial women of her era." Parker pointed out that the book also makes "a fascinating account of Woodhull and Claflin's decision to form Section Twelve of the International Workingmen's Association in order to align the working classes with the sex radicals' critique of class and gender." Parker appended that anyone with an interest "in the free love movement, censorship and free speech debates of the 1870s, and popular culture will enjoy" reading Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution.
Patricia Okker, reviewing the book in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, remarked that although Frisken's analysis of Woodhull's press coverage "is generally strong," Okker found the writing on the relationship between Woodhull and Douglass to be incomplete. Okker concluded that "while Frisken interprets the Woodhull/Douglass nomination as a serious effort on the part of the Equal Rights Party to ‘stimulate national dialogue about the period's racial and sexual politics’ (55), it is equally possible to interpret that nomination as a fairly sensational political attempt to court the important black vote. After all, as Frisken acknowledges but does not explore, Frederick Douglass was not even consulted about his ‘nomination’ as vice president. Despite such lost opportunities, however, Frisken's examination of the enigmatic Woodhull nevertheless contributes to our growing understanding of the intense diversity of public womanhood in nineteenth-century America."
William E. Huntzicker, writing in the Historian, mentioned that "Frisken presents a worldly and clever Woodhull who was aware of the ambiguities of her public image and who played them to further her personal and political goals during Reconstruction," although Huntzicker also found that she was "perhaps overreaching" by suggesting that Woodhull was exploiting the rise of celebrity journalism by creating spectacles of herself. Nevertheless, Huntzicker concluded that "Frisken's book provides an enlightening introduction to one of the most controversial characters in American history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 2006, Joanne E. Passet, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America, p. 200.
American Studies, spring, 2005, Glenna Matthews, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 164.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 2005, P.F. Field, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 1288.
Historian, spring, 2006, William E. Huntzicker, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 138.
Journal of American History, March, 2007, John C. Spurlock, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 1263.
Journal of American Studies, August, 2005, B. Bennett, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 316.
Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, June, 2005, Patricia Okker, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution, p. 211.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (April, 2005), Alison M. Parker, review of Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution.
State University of New York, College at Old Westbury Department of American Studies Web site,http://www.oldwestbury.edu/dept/american/ (March 31, 2008), author profile.