Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Angela Heywood, a nineteenth century Free Lover, radical, labor reformer, anarchist, and ardent supporter of sexual freedom, has been relegated to the shadow of her husband by most historians. Heywood publicly discussed issues such as birth control, abortion, sexuality, freedom of speech, and Free Love in an open and frank manner, yet she remains virtually absent from texts and other scholarly works. Though she was quite well known in the nineteenth century for her boldness of speech and for her active stance against the Victorian prudery, historians have largely treated her dismissively, giving her only passing mention in favor of emphasizing the importance of her husband. Angela Heywood and her husband, Ezra Heywood, published a monthly reform journal called The Word, out of their home in Princeton, Massachusetts from 1872-1893. Angela Heywood contributed articles regularly to The Word, effusing on topics that many deemed unfit for public discussion. Heywood was a bold linguist who felt that sexuality was not a topic that should be whispered about in secret, but should be discussed publically and honestly. She strongly favored the use of plain English words to describe sexual organs and sexual acts, rather than the use of polite euphemisms. Her regular use of words like...[omitted]...shocked even other sex radicals. Heywood refused to stop using bold language in her writings, even though her husband was arrested repeatedly for sending her writings through the mail. Since her language and the sexual nature of the subject matter was deemed obscene, sending them through the mail violated the Comstock Act of 1873. Angela Heywood and her husband were Free Lovers. The Free Love movement of the nineteenth century was a radical strain of reform, which sought to abolish traditional marriage in order to free women from the sexual slavery of their husbands. Sex radicals, such as the Free Lovers, occupied the fringes of even the most radical of reform movements. Most of the Free Lovers began their reform experience with an apprenticeship in the antislavery movement. Through their work for antislavery, they gained access to the reform impulse characteristic of the late-nineteenth century. Free Lovers noted a connection between the slavery of the blacks in the South and the slavery of women within marriage. The Heywoods both got their start through work in the antislavery movement. Throughout the height of the Free Love movement, Angela Heywood published articles in The Word on issues regarding Free Love and sexuality. She was considered to be quite radical for her views on sexuality as well as her use of shocking language. However, Angela Heywood participated in her sex radicalism through the sphere of traditional or Victorian Womanhood. Though the Heywoods participated passionately in a movement that sought to destroy the institution of marriage, they remained in their own traditional marriage until Ezra Heywood’s death. The couple raised four children together. Angela Heywood took on the traditional wifely duties of caring for the children and the home. She often had to put her writings aside when the demands of housework and childcare overwhelmed her time. Though the Heywoods spend considerable time writing on the equality of the sexes, this did not mean for them that the husband should aid in household chores or child-rearing. Angela Heywood gained income for her family, but not through the male sphere of wage-earning. She managed an inn called Mountain Home, which served as a resort for summer guests. She was responsible for all of the domestic duties associated with Victorian Womanhood for her guests as well as for her husband and children. Neighbors described her in terms of her domesticity and noted qualities associated with Victorian Womanhood, though they were wary of her use of bold language and the radical nature of the subjects she treated in her writings. Though her writings made her a sex radical, she participated in this radicalism through a traditional marriage and through her appropriate sphere as outlined by Victorian Womanhood.
Copyright 2009 Hollie Marquess
Marquess, Hollie, ""She Is a Riddle to Them": Angela Tilton Heywood's Sex Radicalism in a Framework of Traditional Womanhood" (2009). Master's Theses. 2210.