Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855. Second edition, enlarged with an appendix titled “The Sexual Element: Its Natural Use – Its Abuse,” on the physical and moral damage caused by masturbation and excessive indulgence in sex. There was at least one later Boston edition, dated 1861, and a few UK editions of a later, 95-page pamphlet version under the same name. All editions are uncommon. With a frontispiece, text illustrations on four pages, and two plates. Some toning to cloth on lower board. A few gatherings slightly loosened. Some toning to endpapers and a rubber-stamped book shop label on front free endpaper. A bit of light foxing to the edges and margins of a few leaves, otherwise quite clean. A very good copy of an uncommon book. Publisher’s brown cloth decoratively stamped in blind with leaves and acorns. Gilt-lettered spine. Twelemo. 324 pp. Item #16764
Henry Clarke Wright (1797-1870) was an abolitionist, an advocate for women’s rights, and a friend of Angelina and Sarah Grimké. Wright was a supporter of John Brown and outspoken about his belief that militant resistance was necessary against slaveholders; his radical views on abolition eventually prompted his banning from the American Anti-Slavery Society. Wright also wrote and delivered lectures in 1865 on his support for universal suffrage, regardless of gender or race, at a time when only white men were permitted to vote.
In Marriage and Parentage, Wright expresses his progressive views on birth control, the equal standing of wives and husbands in marriage, and the bodily and sexual autonomy of women. He writes that “it is a mistake to suppose that marriage takes from the wife the control of her own person. It is a natural, inalienable right, that was ordained of God before human law was made, and can be annulled by no enactments of men…that wife is bound to fidelity to her own soul, at every cost,” (p. 201). Wright also argues that women should be able to freely divorce their husbands not only in cases of abuse but also in “all various manifestations of…the absence of love,” (p. 202).