Butchery on Bond Street: Sexual Politics and the Burdell-Cunningham 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 Cunningham's struggle to stay respectable and keep herself and her children out of the poorhouse and off the streets. Emma's 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. Feldman's 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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