Tuesday Talk at Ventfort Hall and on Zoom – “The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship & Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age”

July 20, 2021 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Anthony Comstock, anti-vice activist and U. S. Postal Inspector, was an important man in the lives of 19th century women.  New York author of twelve books, screenplays, articles and columns, Amy Sohn will cover this overlooked story found in her latest book, The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age, out this July, for an illustrated lecture here at the mansion. Sohn will make her presentation in person at Ventfort Hall and also via Zoom, on July 20 at 4:00 pm as part of our summer series of Tuesday Talks.

Comstock’s eponymous law, passed by Congress in 1873, penalized the mailing of contraception and obscenity with harsh sentences and steep fines; his name was soon equated with repression and prudery by feminists of the time.  Between 1873 and the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, eight women were tried under the Comstock Law. These “sex radicals” supported contraception, sexual education, gender equality and a women’s right to sexual pleasure.  They took on Comstock in explicit, bold, personal writing, seeking to redefine work, family, sex and love for a new era.

These women fought Comstock in court and the press, risking imprisonment and death.  They were publishers, editors and doctors, including the first woman presidential candidate, Victoria C. Woodhull; birth control activist Margaret Sanger; and the anarchist Emma Goldman.  They paved the way for modern-day feminism.  Sohn will recount their personal and romantic travails and political battles.

Sohn is a New York Times-bestselling novelist, including Prospect Park West, Motherland, My Old Man and The Actress.  Her books have been published in eleven languages.  She co-created, wrote and starred in one of the first original programs to air on Oxygen, “Avenue Amy.” As a contributing editor for New York magazine, she wrote the columns “Naked City,” “Mating” and “Breeding.”  As a freelance journalist, Sohn has written for the New York Times, Slate, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and many others.  She has written television pilots for HBO, ABC and Fox.

Admission for the Sohn talk is $20 per person whether via Zoom or by attending at Ventfort Hall.  Reservations for attending the talk at Ventfort Hall are required by calling 413-637-3206. To order on Zoom visit https://ventfort07202021.eventbrite.com The historical mansion is located at 104 Walker Street in Lenox.  The Summer 2021 series of Tuesday Talks is sponsored by Ventfort Hall board member Lucille Landa and William Landa.