Butchery on Bond Street: Sexual Politics and the Burdell-Ccunningham Case in Ante-Bellum New York
The cost of staying middle class in New York City could be murder, mayhem and fraud in the mid-19th century. Mix in sex, slander and lawsuits and the result is a combination of Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives on Bond Street. Ben Feldman has mined the newspapers, court records and dozens of other primary sources to give us a vibrant portrait of Emma Cunninghams struggle to stay respectable and keep herself and her children out of the poorhouse and off the streets. Emmas ill-fated choice of Dr. Harvey Burdell, a cad and misogynist, as her gallant knight, led to his gruesome death and her much-headlined trial for murder. Feldmans expert use of primary sources and the rich secondary literature of the era brilliantly illuminate this brutal battle between the sexes and the vital role of new wealth in shaking up the traditional social structure in mid-19th century America. Alternating between the voices of the main protagonists and his description of the wider forces at work, the author offers us a vividly detailed and compelling narrative of a city where prostitution was a major source of employment for poor women, bankruptcy and failure were commonplace, and a widowed mother of five challenged every norm to secure a future for her children. - Deborah Gardner, Managing Editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Meticulously researched account of a sensational murder and subsequent trial in mid-19th Century New York City. The author provides copious (and prolix) end notes on sources, supporting the book as a work of serious history. In the narrative, Feldman doesn’t let that get in the way of telling a good story. He’s structured the work to give it some suspense, and gives no hint of the surprise twist in plot at the end. I think he goes a little too far in telling us what people are thinking and in re-creating conversations for non-fiction. There are a couple grating anachronisms in language: no one in 1857 referred to “Ms. Somebody.” Overall, a fascinating book, but it could have used the services of a professional editor to tighten it up a bit.
Review: Butchery on Bond Street: Sexual Politics and the Burdell-Cunningham Case in Ante-Bellum New YorkUser Review - Goodreads
Mentioned in The New Yorker 8/27/07