Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life

By Desley Deacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
New Marriage

AFTER five years of anguish, Parsons's life began to take a more satisfying shape in 1914. Not only did she have supportive anthropological friends and colleagues in Pliny Goddard and Robert Lowie, but she had found an audience eager for her "views." Everyone wanted to talk about sex, and following the publication of The Old-Fashioned Woman in April 1913, Parsons was sought after for her sparkling and incisive analyses of sexual mores. "I haven't forgotten my ethnological quest of finding out what you think about human mating," Goddard wrote in November 1913, "and why you came to think it when most people do not dare to cross."1


Separating Sex and Parenthood

In August 1913, as she was finishing "The Imaginary Mistress"--an exercise that seemed to exorcise, at least temporarily, her marital problems--Parsons had began noting down the sexual folkways of her social set in her "Journal of a Feminist." Current Opinion had just announced that it was "sex o'clock in America," and her friend Norman Hapgood, who had taken over the editorship of Harper's Weekly, announced, rather rashly, "We intend, if possible, to make ourselves the official organ for the Feminist Movement." Hapgood proved too timid to publish anything as radical as Parsons's ideas. But he included enough feminist (or suffragist) material to annoy more conservative readers. In a cutting review of Parsons's Social Freedom three years later, when the Weekly was about to go under, James L. Ford attributed its "present prosperity" to its "wise selection of editorials of incredible stupidity" and its "many pages of what is known as 'sex matter' or 'advanced feminism.'" Ford suggested sarcastically that the owners of this "great instrument for the moulding of modern thought" should employ Mrs. Parsons. "Constant brooding over the great problems of the day has caused Harper's Weekly to shrink like a flannel undershirt, until it is now

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