Excerpt: 'Heaven's Bride' by Leigh Eric Schmidt


From NPR:

For years she had referred to them as “the Holy Fathers of the American Inquisition.” When Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and three of his deputies arrived at her New York City apartment in February 1902, Ida Craddock was not surprised. She had long anticipated a last-ditch showdown with Comstock, America’s most formidable censor, and his smut-fighting organization. About a week earlier Comstock had warned her directly against any further violation of federal and state anti-obscenity laws, and, as a repeat offender, she was well aware of her vulnerability. So when Comstock and his fellow inspectors showed up at her cramped residence on West 23rd Street with a warrant for her arrest, Craddock steeled herself anew. “I wish to fight right through to a finish,” she wrote her lawyer shortly afterward. “All I ask is that you use me in the most effective way possible.” As an unabashed sex reformer and a mystic founder of her own Church of Yoga, Craddock was to Comstock a twice-damned purveyor of obscenity and blasphemy. He wanted to shut down her whole operation—the distribution of her pamphlets, the delivery of her lectures, even her face-to-face counseling sessions. “I am taking my stand on the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” Craddock countered, “guaranteeing me religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

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