Heaven’s Bride: Ida Craddock

Killing the Buddha recently published a review of what will surely be one of the most neglected titles of the current season.  Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr and Madwoman is Leigh Eric Schmidt’s biography of Ida Craddock, a one person crossroads of gender equality, sexual emancipation, religious confusion, and moral panic. Ida was model Victorian lady.

Craddock aspired to be first woman admitted to the University of Pennsylvania, but even after acing the days-long admissions test – and having such advocates as Susan B. Anthony – the school refused admission. So she started teaching stenography.

As Arthur Goldwag’s review explains:

But neither shorthand nor Philadelphia could hold her for long. Craddock swiftly jettisoned her mother’s genteel Methodism and embraced the whole gamut of spiritual and intellectual possibilities available in the closing decades of the nineteenth century—freethought, New Thought, spiritualism, Theosophy, and yoga. She served as secretary of the radical American Secular Union for several years; she produced a vast amount of research on ancient phallic worship and the sexual roots of religion; and—an act of incredible boldness for an unmarried woman—she took up the cause of marital reform, lecturing, selling pamphlets, and providing private counseling to couples. An ardent advocate of Alice Stockham’s Karezza method and the coitus reservatus practiced at the Oneida Colony, she taught that the act of sexual congress should last for at least an hour and result in a full orgasm for a woman (but not necessarily ejaculation for her male partner). Physical and emotional pleasure were ways to bring God into one’s life, she advised. She counseled couples to “think and talk during the nude embrace … of good books, pictures, statuary, music, sermons, plans for benefiting other people, noble deeds, spiritual aspirations.”

All that said, Craddock condemned both homosexuality and masturbation, remnants of prevailing Victorian sensibilities. This didn’t stop her from waging war against “sex pervert” Anthony Comstock or from nearly being, by turns, incarcerated or committed. Clarence Darrow kept her out of the big house at least once, a distinction which, given some of his more famous clients, is decidedly mixed.

Oh yeah, and then there’s this:

Though her books and sex manuals spoke frankly about everything from seminal discharges to female pelvic rotations, she was almost certainly a virgin. Except she believed that she was married—to a businessman she had spurned as a young woman, shortly before he died, but with whose spirit she had later found enduring happiness. She called her angelic husband Soph and documented their marriage in a long manuscript. It was a blissfully happy union, but like all marriages, it had its problems—one night, for example, she was resentful of how lumpy their bed was and didn’t feel like sleeping with him (“I did think that a husband who couldn’t get his wife a comfortable bed to lie on, no matter how plain, oughtn’t to expect her to go to bed with him”); another night he was less ardent than he might have been because she had onion on her breath. Craddock worried at times that she might have been hallucinating the whole thing; she comforted and reassured herself by mining the history of world religion for accounts of other spiritual bridegrooms.

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One Response to Heaven’s Bride: Ida Craddock

  1. Rick says:

    Very good post.

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