Until the end of May 2019 a new edition of “The Lover’s World: A Wheel of Life” (1903) by Alice B. Stockham will be published and available on the book market. Here is the title page and the imprint:
Update May 23, 2019: The Book is available now.
Preview of the Epilogue by the Editor (pp. 335-338)
In January 2019, I met Daniel Joslyn, a PhD candidate at New York University, in Bonn. He works on late nineteenth-century sexual mysticism and social reform in the United States. He had become attentive of my reprint of Stockham‘s Karezza, Ethics of Marriage and the statement in my Epilogue:
„It is time, that the scientific community recognizes her important idea of a spiritual or mental emancipation from sexual bestiality. In my opinion, Stockham is a fascinating figure for medical and cultural historiography in the overlapping fields of natural philosophy and religious thinking, mesmerism and psychoanalysis, medical anthropology and sexology, feminism and social hygiene, and last but not least humanism and pacifism. It is time to rediscover her life and work.”
Daniel Joslyn informed me about new approaches and publications of contemporary American scholars. Above all, he hinted at Stockham’s magnum opus The Lover’s World, A Wheel of Life, which I had ignored so far. This book is not available in any German respectively European library and one can find it only in a very few libraries in North America. Thanks to his information I could produce this reprint.
Alice Bunker Stockham (1833-1912) was an obstetrician and gynecologist from Chicago, an enthusiastic fighter for a marital and sexual reform. Stockham was the fifth woman in the U.S.A., who got the degree of a Medical Doctor. Apart from her medical field she was engaged in charity and interested in spiritual topics. She also practiced homeopathy, fought against alcoholism, served probably sometimes as a trance medium, and was an active feminist, a suffragette. She became a successful self-publisher. In 1886, she published Tokology, A Book for Every Woman concerning the health of women followed by several editions and translations into foreign languages. Leo Tolstoy, a supporter of her ideas and a personal friend of her, was so impressed that he initiated a translation of the book into Russian. In 1900, she published by her own press the study Tolstoi—A Man of Peace together with the Tolstoy study of Havelock Ellis, the well-known English sexologist.
Stockham adhered to the so called “New Thought Movement”. In 1886, she joined the first course on Christian Science organised by Emma Hopkins in Chicago. Many renowned women supported this movement, which was separated into two parties. One of them refused strictly any sex appeal, whereas the other one backed by Stockham pled to perform sexual life worthily. In 1896, she published a little book titled Karezza, Ethics of Marriage. She took “Karezza” from the Italian term “carezza” (written with a “c”) meaning petting or gentle stroking. Stockham was convinced, that there was a tremendous difference between the usual copulation ending up with orgasm and ejaculation and the gentle Karezza conjunction or merging avoiding orgasm. Her magnum opus The Lover’s World, A Wheel of Life published in 1903 (see below: Editorial Note) is based on her former work comprehending all of her theoretical and practical knowledge as a medical doctor, social reformer and spiritual thinker.
I am quite impressed by Stockham’s opus combining medical, ethical, anthropological, social, philosophical, cross-cultural, mystical, and religious perspectives. In my opinion, it is a key work for understanding the social, political, and intellectual situation in the United States and partially also in Europe about 1900. I am not able to analyse Stockham’s writing in detail here. Her historical sources, theoretical assumptions, and practical consequences are rather complex, whereas the guiding idea is quite elementary: Love is a marvellous spiritual (“heavenly”) power framing and transcending the crude animal sphere of human beings. Stockham’s concept displays a fascinating intersection of medical advice, health care, social reform, sexual education, spiritual exercise, and religious empowerment. Her idealistic views – among others she referred to German idealism and Hegel – did not impede her professional devotion as a doctor to the very earthly needs of her fellow human beings providing them with words of advice and encouragement. Moreover, her books represent health guides and instructions of self-help belonging to a certain genre of advisory literature authored by medical doctors to help their patients as well as the suffering mankind in general. Insofar, she stressed the traditional idea of dietetics originating from the ancient Greek medicine, which has been modified in many ways throughout medical history.
Stockham was a learned woman with an overwhelming pedagogical Eros – without academic arrogance and elitist behaviour. This reprint can only deliver a certain basis for further studies to detect the importance of this extraordinary woman within the context of her time. Even more significant in my view: Her ideas are apt to stimulate the discussion on the crucial problem of sexuality and love nowadays. She transcended the view of biologism, although she often invoked a plain naturalism. In her optimistic view of life she was not interested to reflect tragedy and absurdity of the human condition in a philosophical way. Her heaven on earth idea she advocated as a marital reformer did not correspond to the materialistic socialist doctrine of her time. For she targeted a spiritually founded life style overcoming animal sexuality as a reflex of instinct by self-education. In my opinion, this task is as topical today as is it was in her time. In spite of sexual revolution(s), women’s emancipation, and the “anti-baby-pill” during the 20th century, the sexual misery is going on regarding the abortion and divorce rates, the debates on sexual abuse, or the odd controversy about “gender main streaming”. The history of ideas resembles a treasury containing fascinating gems for someone, who is ready to perceive them. And Stockham’s work is one of them.
Bonn, in May 2019 Heinz Schott