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The Great Divorce: a Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times

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Ilyon Woo's The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America's most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country's notions of women's rights, family, and marriage itself. In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. H Ilyon Woo's The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America's most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country's notions of women's rights, family, and marriage itself. In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. He had taken them, she learned, to live among a celibate, religious people known as the Shakers. Defying all expectations, this famously petite and lovely woman mounted an an epic campaign against her husband, the Shakers, and the law. In its confrontation of some of the nation's most fundamental debates--religious freedom, feminine virtue, the sanctity of marriage--her case struck a nerve with an uncertain new republic. And its culmination--in a stunning legislative decision and a terrifying mob attack-- sent shockwaves through the Shaker community and the nation beyond. With a novelist's eye and a historian's perspective, Woo delivers the first full account of Eunice Chapman's remarkable struggle. A moving story about the power of a mother's love, The Great Divorce is also a memorable portrait of a rousing challenge to the values of a young nation.


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Ilyon Woo's The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America's most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country's notions of women's rights, family, and marriage itself. In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. H Ilyon Woo's The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America's most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country's notions of women's rights, family, and marriage itself. In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. He had taken them, she learned, to live among a celibate, religious people known as the Shakers. Defying all expectations, this famously petite and lovely woman mounted an an epic campaign against her husband, the Shakers, and the law. In its confrontation of some of the nation's most fundamental debates--religious freedom, feminine virtue, the sanctity of marriage--her case struck a nerve with an uncertain new republic. And its culmination--in a stunning legislative decision and a terrifying mob attack-- sent shockwaves through the Shaker community and the nation beyond. With a novelist's eye and a historian's perspective, Woo delivers the first full account of Eunice Chapman's remarkable struggle. A moving story about the power of a mother's love, The Great Divorce is also a memorable portrait of a rousing challenge to the values of a young nation.

30 review for The Great Divorce: a Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times

  1. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Ilyon Woo uncovers and intriguing story that begins a revolution in divorce and custody laws in New York State and across America. Set during the 1810s in upstate New York, the story details the life of Eunice Chapman, a bright and forceful woman who refuses to stay within her assigned gender role and fights for her children after her estranged husband takes them to live with him in a Shaker community near Albany. Mrs. Chapman employed several methods to spread the word about the injustices she e Ilyon Woo uncovers and intriguing story that begins a revolution in divorce and custody laws in New York State and across America. Set during the 1810s in upstate New York, the story details the life of Eunice Chapman, a bright and forceful woman who refuses to stay within her assigned gender role and fights for her children after her estranged husband takes them to live with him in a Shaker community near Albany. Mrs. Chapman employed several methods to spread the word about the injustices she endured, including courting several state legislatures (with much scandal implied by witnesses and locals alike), publishing her story in pamphlet form, and even threatening the Shakers with threats of attacks and fires. I respect her for all that she endured in order to get her children back. She is a strong and resourceful woman who would fought against her times, her husband, and her government to save and protect her children. Unfortunately for Mrs. Eunice Chapman, this is her only redeeming quality. She came across as a crass and two faced woman who played way too dirty at times. Her husband, James, and the Shakers came out looking no better. James was an adulterous alcoholic who squandered away the family's money and status before fleeing the family home in Durham. He tricked his wife in order to kidnap the children. He kept up his drinking and worldly ways long after signing his covenant with the Shakers. The Shakers themselves lied to Mrs. Chapman and the government about James' and the children's whereabouts on several occasions and often left out key pieces of information. Their organization also dealt with gender issues of their own as their leader at the time was Lucy Wright, another strong willed and determined woman whose beliefs and actions were well before her time. The author cannot do much with characters who do not give her much to work with, but the lack of likable characters paired with an often sluggish narrative that gets bogged down in description in places didn't help this book overall. It was in interesting story that took place where I live and I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't tell people to add it to their 'must read' list.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    Ilyon Woo does an admirable job of telling a dramatic tale with perceptiveness and sensitivity toward all sides. Recommended for those interested in women's history, religious history, early 19th-century U.S. history, or the Shakers, in particular. This would make a powerful film! Ilyon Woo does an admirable job of telling a dramatic tale with perceptiveness and sensitivity toward all sides. Recommended for those interested in women's history, religious history, early 19th-century U.S. history, or the Shakers, in particular. This would make a powerful film!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    I read this book in less than 3 days, hating to put it down for everyday chores. Part of my interest stems from continuing interest in the Shakers, part from the fact that much of what happened in this nonfiction story occurred within miles of where I grew up and where I live now (latter is about 5 minutes by car from the former Watervliet Shaker community location), and part stems from the fact that this is the story of a strong woman/mother who just couldn't/wouldn't give up on getting her chi I read this book in less than 3 days, hating to put it down for everyday chores. Part of my interest stems from continuing interest in the Shakers, part from the fact that much of what happened in this nonfiction story occurred within miles of where I grew up and where I live now (latter is about 5 minutes by car from the former Watervliet Shaker community location), and part stems from the fact that this is the story of a strong woman/mother who just couldn't/wouldn't give up on getting her children back. Sometimes it was frustrating reading about various tactics she used but, dammit, she was up against a whole anti-woman society where divorce (in NYS) was just about impossible and too expensive for the likes of Eunice Chapman and child custody was pretty much up to the husband. A few times I thought she was just plain losing it... but in the end it seems she was able to settle into a decent life, albeit never being a friend to the Shakers. I came away from reading this book with a more informed (&cynical) view about Shakers, having learned a few negative aspects of how they functioned. On the other hand, still have lots of respect for much of their accomplishments. They evolved, as we all do, but not nearly enough to keep them from disappearing from the world. Well-written and well-researched. Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susan O

    Excellent - A well-written account of the struggle of Eunice Chapman to regain contact and custody of her children in a time when married women had few legal rights. Her husband joined the Shakers and took her children to live with them, eventually denying Eunice contact with them. She went to extraordinary lengths to reconnect and eventually gain custody. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of the Shakers, women's history, or the 19th century in general. Excellent - A well-written account of the struggle of Eunice Chapman to regain contact and custody of her children in a time when married women had few legal rights. Her husband joined the Shakers and took her children to live with them, eventually denying Eunice contact with them. She went to extraordinary lengths to reconnect and eventually gain custody. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of the Shakers, women's history, or the 19th century in general.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jane Kriegler

    This book greatly exceeded my expectations. I have read other books about the Shakers, but this account was so much more than a story about this religious sect. Mrs. Chapman’s story of her perseverance and lobbying to obtain a divorce, her steadfast love and loyalty to her children and her strong self-image as a woman are remarkable and relevant.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen Benson

    While I really enjoyed learning about the Shakers and while it was really interesting to understand what Eunice Chapman endured while both divorcing her husband and trying to regain custody of her children from the Shaker community, the book sometimes went into "novel" mode which made it entirely too long. Just when you think you are getting close to some important detail, we endure reading about the deep snow, or riding in a buggy along a riverbank in much detail, which to me didn't really add While I really enjoyed learning about the Shakers and while it was really interesting to understand what Eunice Chapman endured while both divorcing her husband and trying to regain custody of her children from the Shaker community, the book sometimes went into "novel" mode which made it entirely too long. Just when you think you are getting close to some important detail, we endure reading about the deep snow, or riding in a buggy along a riverbank in much detail, which to me didn't really add much to the story. At some points it dragged and dragged which at times made it difficult to pick back up to finish. After reading about the Shakers, their way of life, customs and rules, it's easy to see how religious cults have come to be. It's hard to believe that people actually agreed to this way of life and it's easy to see why the Shakers have evaporated. This is actually a good history lesson. I thank Eunice Chapman for having a pair and sticking to her guns.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Saw a great review of this book here: http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5... It was also featured on NPR: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/201... Saw a great review of this book here: http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5... It was also featured on NPR: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/201...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla Herrington

    This is a book of history by an historian I expect we'll be hearing more from in the coming years - Ilyon Woo. /she has painstaking gathered information, mostly from primary sources, about an incident in the early Nineteenth Century. Eunice Chapman's husband, James, had fallen on hard times and become a heavy drinker. He would abandon his family for long stretches of time, leaving Eunice and her three children to fend for themselves. When he did come home he brought little if anything in the way This is a book of history by an historian I expect we'll be hearing more from in the coming years - Ilyon Woo. /she has painstaking gathered information, mostly from primary sources, about an incident in the early Nineteenth Century. Eunice Chapman's husband, James, had fallen on hard times and become a heavy drinker. He would abandon his family for long stretches of time, leaving Eunice and her three children to fend for themselves. When he did come home he brought little if anything in the way of material comforts, and he was abusive to his wife and children. Finally, he brought home the announcement that he had joined the Shakers - a communal religious group best known for their vows of celibacy and also their prosperous farms. James's plan was for his wife and children to join him at the Watervliet Family Dwelling. After Eunice visited the Shakers and found that their religion was very much at odds with her own ardent Presbyterianism. She refused to join. Soon thereafter James abducted his three children and carried them off to the Shakers. Eunice would not see them again for about five years. Most of the book deals with Eunice's efforts to retrieve her children, as well as to obtain a divorce and civil rights. Woo has carefully studied New York divorce, marriage and custody laws as well as the social customs of the tie. The story is interesting and Woo's writing is clear, making even nuances and complexities easy to follow. Woo is a heavy hitter, both as a writer and as an historian.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Would I have liked this book as much if I didn't live in the area where most of the story takes place? I don't know, but because I live here I found it super fascinating. Although we know that Shakers lived around here, there are some buildings still remaining, and we have lore surrounding them, I had never heard even a peep about this woman's story. Eunice Chapman was an amazing woman who convinced the NYS legislature to pass legislation on her behalf. This is daunting to do today, never mind f Would I have liked this book as much if I didn't live in the area where most of the story takes place? I don't know, but because I live here I found it super fascinating. Although we know that Shakers lived around here, there are some buildings still remaining, and we have lore surrounding them, I had never heard even a peep about this woman's story. Eunice Chapman was an amazing woman who convinced the NYS legislature to pass legislation on her behalf. This is daunting to do today, never mind for a woman to do at a time when they had no vote. We do not know much about Eunice, but the author was able to piece together a compelling portrait by meticulously doing her research and tying together the various snippets she found. The book showed a negative side of the Shakers that we don't usually hear. I liked this because it made the Shakers seemed more real and complicated, not just some quaint and cute people like they are often portrayed. Their philosophy meant giving up more than just sex. People had struggles with the religion. The religion also provided a lot of support for oddballs and those with no one to support them - I never thought about how this might lead to their downfall. I enjoyed the little tidbits about my hometown, Albany. The fact that they had pigs roaming the street to clean up the garbage and then be slaughtered when people were hungry was my favorite.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J

    In depth exposé on the Shakers (mostly the New England area) from around 1812-1820. It’s more information than I’ll ever need or use, but it was presented well. I listened through Audible (Included) and the narrator was fantastic. That much of an info dump could have been boring. If not well narrated, it would have been a DNF for sure. It was neither. I was fascinated, and also relieved when the book finally ended. While the book deals mostly with the cult-like atmosphere within these Shaker enc In depth exposé on the Shakers (mostly the New England area) from around 1812-1820. It’s more information than I’ll ever need or use, but it was presented well. I listened through Audible (Included) and the narrator was fantastic. That much of an info dump could have been boring. If not well narrated, it would have been a DNF for sure. It was neither. I was fascinated, and also relieved when the book finally ended. While the book deals mostly with the cult-like atmosphere within these Shaker encampments, and the misery of one mother to be reunited with her children, there’s so much more too this book. It is a deep dive into the culture of that era, from civil law, politics, religion, social mores—this book covers so much information. It would be a great resource for writers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    What an extraordinary story. Eunice Chapman fought for years to get a divorce and retrieve her children, who had been taken by their father and hidden in the Shaker community in Watervliet. She fought against insurmountable odds, since a married woman had no rights, no legal standing, nothing, except as her husband’s chattel. And she won! If you are a fan of Shaker design, be prepared to hear the not so nice side of the sect’s rules and regulations.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zettie Jones

    Incredible & enlightening story. It's amazing to me how far women's rights have evolved & how hard a mother would have to challenge the right to her own children, to earn a living & a respected place in society . Incredible & enlightening story. It's amazing to me how far women's rights have evolved & how hard a mother would have to challenge the right to her own children, to earn a living & a respected place in society .

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erica Addison

    One of the BEST books I've ever read. I don't ever go for historical fiction, but I picked this one up and it ended up being awesome. The main character is the Original Badass and took on EVERYONE to get what she deserved. One of the BEST books I've ever read. I don't ever go for historical fiction, but I picked this one up and it ended up being awesome. The main character is the Original Badass and took on EVERYONE to get what she deserved.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Heather Macadam

    Ilyon Woo has done an amazing job unpacking this powerful story about women's rights. Beautifully constructed, extensively researched and fantastically written. Don't miss this wonderful slice of women's history and liberation! She well deserves receiving a Whiting Award. Ilyon Woo has done an amazing job unpacking this powerful story about women's rights. Beautifully constructed, extensively researched and fantastically written. Don't miss this wonderful slice of women's history and liberation! She well deserves receiving a Whiting Award.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather Perkins

    A well covered fascinating look at a strong willed woman's life, and dedication to win her children back from her husband's kidnapping them into the life of the Shakers. It was a neat look at early 19th century religion, marriage, and state politics in the North east. More of a 3.5 than anything. A well covered fascinating look at a strong willed woman's life, and dedication to win her children back from her husband's kidnapping them into the life of the Shakers. It was a neat look at early 19th century religion, marriage, and state politics in the North east. More of a 3.5 than anything.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laurean Wilson Reynolds

    History Lesson Tremendously well-researched story of Eunice Chapman's fight against her drunken, abusive husband,The Shakers, and for a divorce and custody of her three children. A woman few people remember from American history, but due to her tenacity, battled for years and won legal rights for women in the early 1800s, when they had none. Detailed account of the lives, beliefs, accomplishments, and the restrictive rules of The Shakers; as it shows their bizarre, grasping treatment of minor chi History Lesson Tremendously well-researched story of Eunice Chapman's fight against her drunken, abusive husband,The Shakers, and for a divorce and custody of her three children. A woman few people remember from American history, but due to her tenacity, battled for years and won legal rights for women in the early 1800s, when they had none. Detailed account of the lives, beliefs, accomplishments, and the restrictive rules of The Shakers; as it shows their bizarre, grasping treatment of minor children. Many women, as well as Eunice Chapman, fought, with community help, for the release of their children from The Shakers. Interesting and informative read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I read this for a book club - found it rather dreary, although I did learn some American history (about the Shaker movement, no pun intended).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sally Fouhse

    Hard to tell here who to believe - Eunice or the Shakers. Plenty of blame to go around on both sides. but nevertheless, she persisted - and changed laws and moral outlooks in the process.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Excellently researched book, excellent writing. It's so interesting to read about people I've always admired, having a dark side to them, at least in the beginning. Shame on the Shakers. Excellently researched book, excellent writing. It's so interesting to read about people I've always admired, having a dark side to them, at least in the beginning. Shame on the Shakers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fairport Public Library

    October 2011, Holly W, NonFiction

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eve

    A gem of a story excavated from early nineteenth century history, exploring the story of an upstate New York woman of unusual strength who pioneers a post-marital civil life as she struggles to reclaim her children from the husband who absconded with them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elaina Smith

    If you want to learn more about the Shakers, this is the book for you. It was very interesting but slow moving.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I absolutely loved reading Eunice Chapman's story! Ilyon Woo has done a remarkable amount of research and it shows on every page. Even the Sources and Acknowledgments after the epilogue were fascinating to me. I found this book while browsing at the library. The title grabbed me for a number of reasons: my interest in utopian societies, my lack of Shaker knowledge, a salacious tale of divorce in the Victorian era, a custody battle from 200 years ago, the chance to imagine Albany as it was in its I absolutely loved reading Eunice Chapman's story! Ilyon Woo has done a remarkable amount of research and it shows on every page. Even the Sources and Acknowledgments after the epilogue were fascinating to me. I found this book while browsing at the library. The title grabbed me for a number of reasons: my interest in utopian societies, my lack of Shaker knowledge, a salacious tale of divorce in the Victorian era, a custody battle from 200 years ago, the chance to imagine Albany as it was in its boom days. My list could go on. I learned much more than I bargained for and come away from the book with complicated opinions about the Shakers, legal practices of the time (most appallingly, civil death of married women), and Eunice herself. Yes, the story is dramatic. Ilyon Woo herself acknowledges that she wrote this piece (for 10 years, even!) with drama in mind. What holds true, though, is the fact that all parties involved, from Eunice to New York lawmakers, to James Chapman, to the Shakers in all of their villages, were overzealous for one reason or another. This gave them each a fatal flaw. That right there is the linchpin of drama. Lastly, what I found most enjoyable and satisfying about the book is the nuance despite all the drama. The author never sides with anyone outright, and that's key. As written, the reader may see when the state is using James Chapman as an example of a good man slandered by his power-hungry, sexpot wife, even as she fights for her children. We may also see that the Shakers valued order and peace above cooperation with any law or sinners, which made keeping the Chapman children an act of God and one that had to be done. I'd highly recommend a thorough reading!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kylie Purdie

    In the early 1800's, Eunice Chapman was just like any other woman - property of her husband, dependent on him for support and access to her children. On the day she returned home and found her husband had taken their three children and gone to live with a religious group known as the Shakers, she decided to fight back. Over 5 years Eunice petitioned legislators (at the time the only way a woman could get a divorce was to prove adultery or have it passed into law), wrote books and harassed the Sha In the early 1800's, Eunice Chapman was just like any other woman - property of her husband, dependent on him for support and access to her children. On the day she returned home and found her husband had taken their three children and gone to live with a religious group known as the Shakers, she decided to fight back. Over 5 years Eunice petitioned legislators (at the time the only way a woman could get a divorce was to prove adultery or have it passed into law), wrote books and harassed the Shakers all with the single minded objective of getting her children back. Woo does not make Chapman out to be a saint. By all accounts, Eunice was not above using whatever tactics she thought would work for her in her fight against the Shakers. However, at that point in time, there were not a lot of options available to women who chose not to follow their husbands and were therefore seen by the law as "civilly dead." This means she was unable to own property, testify against her husband or lay claim to their children. Woo tells the tale of an amazing feminist, who fought for her children and never gave up. A highly recommended read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gayla Bassham

    If I have a complaint about The Great Divorce, it's that Woo often tells us what Eunice is feeling and thinking without providing citations. In the endnotes, Woo says that "Details about the weather and descriptions of Eunice’s thoughts and moods all originate in period sources. In particular, my discussion of Eunice’s feelings is rooted in her books." But for me that was too little too late. I am wary of projecting our twenty-first century brains onto what a nineteenth-century woman may have be If I have a complaint about The Great Divorce, it's that Woo often tells us what Eunice is feeling and thinking without providing citations. In the endnotes, Woo says that "Details about the weather and descriptions of Eunice’s thoughts and moods all originate in period sources. In particular, my discussion of Eunice’s feelings is rooted in her books." But for me that was too little too late. I am wary of projecting our twenty-first century brains onto what a nineteenth-century woman may have been thinking; our worldviews are just so different. Other than that, though, The Great Divorce really is a very good book, as well as a compelling read. (I couldn't put it down in the last half, despite the fact that Woo had already told me what was going to happen hundreds pages earlier. And despite the fact that everyone involved was long-dead.) My preference would have been for a little more analysis and a little more intellectual history. But it is certainly a compelling read, and left me thinking about the women's history on both sides of the legal battle.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a very interesting book. I knew women had few rights in the early part of the 19th century in America, but I don't think it hit me (until I read this book) that once you were married, you were "civilly dead." NO rights at all: no rights to your own children, let alone property, etc. This is the story of one woman's fight to gain custody of her children, after her husband joins the Shakers and takes the children with him. She had quite a struggle, but her persistence paid off and paved th This was a very interesting book. I knew women had few rights in the early part of the 19th century in America, but I don't think it hit me (until I read this book) that once you were married, you were "civilly dead." NO rights at all: no rights to your own children, let alone property, etc. This is the story of one woman's fight to gain custody of her children, after her husband joins the Shakers and takes the children with him. She had quite a struggle, but her persistence paid off and paved the way for women gaining more rights in regards to divorce, children, etc. I skimmed the last few chapters, as I felt like it was quite academic and I got impatient to see the outcome of her case. The last chapter summed everything up nicely. I almost feel like every American girl should read this to be thankful for how far we've come! There are certainly women around the world who still live like this today, and in even worse conditions.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Huong

    Having to read this book for my AP U.S. History summer assignment, I did not expect much from it, I was pleasantly surprised about the book. Although the book is not pleasant at all when it comes to the plot and what unfold, it's a thought provoking read that made me think about the traditional values of womanhood, motherhood and the things a mother is willing to do for her children who were born from her flesh. Eunice Chapman is a heroine I can't help but admire and detest at the same time. Her Having to read this book for my AP U.S. History summer assignment, I did not expect much from it, I was pleasantly surprised about the book. Although the book is not pleasant at all when it comes to the plot and what unfold, it's a thought provoking read that made me think about the traditional values of womanhood, motherhood and the things a mother is willing to do for her children who were born from her flesh. Eunice Chapman is a heroine I can't help but admire and detest at the same time. Her ruthlessness (not without a cause) and her willingness to bring down an entire society to get what she wants is frightening. Yet, I can see where she is coming from which makes me want to sympathize with her. She's a character I would love to hate but can't. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot and I would recommend this book to anyone who despises history (much like I am) because this book will definitely make you fall (a little bit) for the many uncovered mysteries of the past.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beth Beaulieu

    The story of Eunice Chapman drew me in from the first pages. I have always been interested in the communities of Shakers dotting the New England landscape and have wondered about their history. Through this book I got a more nuanced view of their religious beliefs and the beliefs and morals of people living in New York state at the time. Her experience with the community outside Albany, her efforts to divorce, and gain custody of her children was compelling. In the end the fight in the legislatu The story of Eunice Chapman drew me in from the first pages. I have always been interested in the communities of Shakers dotting the New England landscape and have wondered about their history. Through this book I got a more nuanced view of their religious beliefs and the beliefs and morals of people living in New York state at the time. Her experience with the community outside Albany, her efforts to divorce, and gain custody of her children was compelling. In the end the fight in the legislature reminds me so much of how things are decided today. Because she was such a compelling character, she was able to impress upon the legislature something they would have never accepted from other petitioners. While this account is clearly slanted toward Chapman's point of view and her appeal to the legislature, it would be so interesting to read additional accounts of perspectives on the Shakers at that time. Certainly a lot more than furniture!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary Frances

    This was a very interesting and well-written book about a landmark early 19th century custody dispute between a mother, her husband, and the Shakers. Apparently in the early 1800s the Shakers allowed people (mostly men) to enter their communities with their children even if the other spouse was opposed, and they often hid the children or refused to release them. Men had the right to the kids, to determine the abode, to control the money and to order the wife to comply. In NY, there was almost no This was a very interesting and well-written book about a landmark early 19th century custody dispute between a mother, her husband, and the Shakers. Apparently in the early 1800s the Shakers allowed people (mostly men) to enter their communities with their children even if the other spouse was opposed, and they often hid the children or refused to release them. Men had the right to the kids, to determine the abode, to control the money and to order the wife to comply. In NY, there was almost no way to divorce. This is the story of a determined mother who beat the Shakers, her husband, and finally opponents in the NY legislature to obtain a legislative divorce and the right to her kids and her money. Really fascinating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Child-snatching Shakers! In 1814, Eunice Chapman's worthless alcoholic husband kidnapped their three children and ran off to be a Shaker. For the next two years, Eunice rallied the press and politicians to get them back, launching a debate over marital law and religious tolerance. Notable for being sympathetic to the reasoning of both sides, while attempting to reconstruct the decision making of the New York Assembly, which couldn't quite work out if they wanted to uphold Federalist patriarchy o Child-snatching Shakers! In 1814, Eunice Chapman's worthless alcoholic husband kidnapped their three children and ran off to be a Shaker. For the next two years, Eunice rallied the press and politicians to get them back, launching a debate over marital law and religious tolerance. Notable for being sympathetic to the reasoning of both sides, while attempting to reconstruct the decision making of the New York Assembly, which couldn't quite work out if they wanted to uphold Federalist patriarchy or use the case to punish a radical religious sect they found unpatriotic in the War of 1812 for their petition for conscientious objector status.

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