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Independent Press Award

2024 Distinguished Favorite

Free Spirits: A novel of free love, faith, and frauds in 1860s New York

Mary Hutchings Reed

A novel of free love, faith, and fraud in 1860s New York. In 1865 in New York City, wives were the property of their husbands, prostitutes were rich, and famous men were often frauds. Escaping an abusive marriage in Illinois, Daniella Maysfield finds herself at the Mission for the Rescue of Fallen Women, where a savvy prostitute becomes her best friend. Inspired by real events--the speeches of Victoria Woodhull in her efforts to amend the Marriage Laws, the trial of spirit photographer William H. Mumler, and P. T. Barnum's American Museum--Free Spirits is the story of a woman's struggle for independence.

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