Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality

Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality

Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality

Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality

Synopsis

This biography of an unconventional woman in late 19th-century America is a study of a search for individual autonomy and spiritual growth. Laura Holloway-Langford, a "rebel girl" from Tennessee, moved to New York City, where she supported her family as a journalist. She soon became famous as the author of Ladies of the White House, which secured her financial independence. Promoted to associate editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, she gave readings and lectures and became involved in progressive women's causes, the temperance movement, and theosophy--even traveling to Europe to meet Madame Blavatsky, the movement's leader, and writing for the theosophist newspaper The Word. In the early 1870s, she began a correspondence with Eldress Anna White of the Mount Lebanon, New York, Shaker community, with whom she shared belief in pacifism, feminism, vegetarianism, and cremation. Attracted by the simplicity of Shaker life, she eventually bought a farm from the Canaan Shakers, where she lived and continued to write until her death in 1930. In tracing the life of this spiritual seeker, Diane Sasson underscores the significant role played by cultural mediators like Holloway-Langford in bringing new religious ideas to the American public and contributing to a growing interest in eastern religions and alternative approaches to health and spirituality that would alter the cultural landscape of the nation.

Excerpt

Diane sasson has crafted a riveting biography of Laura HollowayLangford (1843–1930) that is also first-rate religious and intellectual history. Sasson’s masterful account follows this gifted Southern woman who left the devastating circumstances of the defeated South following the Civil War and traveled across the nation and beyond, gradually gaining national and international attention and prominence. This is the tale of Laura Holloway-Langford’s odyssey as a quintessential seeker, and of the excitement, the engagement, and at times the discontent she experienced as she moved through the new spiritual worlds of the late nineteenth century and of the opening decades of the twentieth century.

This account of Laura Holloway-Langford’s journey documents her multiple diverse engagements with the religious and social movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Those decades were complex and transitional moments in American spiritual life and history; alternative religious movements as diverse as Theosophy and Spiritualism, Buddhism and Shakerism, appeared at times side by side on a national scene that was dominated by a diversity of Christian denominations. Holloway-Langford engaged these outsider groups in her own distinctive manner, providing in many instances critical input that influenced the subsequent paths of these movements in the United States.

Similarly, this biography tells of Holloway-Langford’s engagement with the rapidly changing social world in America during the decades following . . .

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