Massachusetts Historical Society


The Battle-Axe Letter: The Sexual Politics of Abolitionism & the "Annihilation of the Family State"


Author: Dan Joslyn, New York University
Comment: Holly Jackson, University of Massachusetts, Boston

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

In this paper, Dan Joslyn argues that in the 1830s, Garrisonian abolitionists and Finneyite Evangelicals worked together to militate against alternative formations of sex and gender, home and family. Joslyn does so through the intertwined story of two sexual heresies: Fanny Wright’s opposition to marriage and support of interracial amalgamation, and John Humphrey Noyes’s prophecy of an orgiastic heaven of marriage-less bliss. Where Finneyites served as the conservative, patriarchal center of an emergent bourgeois gender order, Garrisonians functioned as capitalist domesticity’s more egalitarian liberal edge, pushing at its boundaries while reinscribing its core tenets.

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Hybrid Event

The in-person reception starts at 4:30 PM and the seminar will begin at 5:00 PM.

Masks are optional for this event.

The virtual seminar begins at 5:00 PM and will be hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

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