Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote a great piece on the self-appointed censor of the Gilded Age: Anthony Comstock. Comstock was one of the great enemies of free thought, free love and free expression, and his enforcement of censorship laws over material sent through the mail represents one of the low points in American freedom.
Loomis followed this up with a piece on one of the most interesting people in American history, Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull was briefly a major figure in the battle for women’s equality. Historically, there are times when her contributions are overlooked and times when she receives a great deal of attention. The past decade or so have been a time of great attention, with half a dozen biographies. David Sehat spends some time on her in The Myth of American Religious Freedom as part of his coverage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Woodhull’s friend and ally and one of Sehat’s liberal heroines.
Unfortunately, the attention she receives is not always the good sort. Woodhull was scandalous, and that makes it hard to tell fact from rumor and salacious allegation. Loomis plays it safe, but in the process has to leave out some of the great stories that surround Woodhull. I shall relate some of them, while still providing the sort of historical discernment you’d expect from a semi-anonymous internet blogger.
(and since this turned out to be much longer that I anticipated, I’ll stick it below the fold)