· Sex Wars consists of four intertwined stories about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, Anthony Comstock, and Freyden Levin. Which of these stories were you most interested in, and why? All of these characters except for Freydeh were real people. Make sure you know who they were and why they were important historical figures.
· How are women’s friendships portrayed in this book? What about sisterhood, such as that between Victoria Woodhull and her sister Tennie? How would you describe Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s relationship with Susan B. Anthony?
· What are the marital relationships like between Victoria Woodhull and Colonal James Blood, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Henry Stanton? What role does sex play in their marriages?
· How does Freydeh Levin create a new family for herself after the loss of her husband, parents, and younger sister? Do you think she was right to enter the kind of business that she did? Did she have a choice?
· How do the circumstances of his upbringing influence Anthony Comstock as an adult? Do you find him to be a sympathetic character in any way?
· Elizabeth Cady Stanton says, “Slaves have no names but what their masters give them….Similarly, a woman’s name disappears upon marriage because she becomes property too.” What other connections did feminists draw between the abolition of slavery and women’s rights? What obstacles did they encounter when they tried to get abolitionists to support their cause?
· Although most women during this time were expected to marry, what advantages did women who never married, such as Susan B. Anthony, have over women who did marry? If you were a woman living at this time, would you choose to marry for security? What if you were impoverished?
· Victoria Woodhull accomplished many “firsts” in her life—she and her sister were the first female brokers on Wall Street, she was the first woman to address Congress, and she was arguably the first woman to run for president. How did her views on subjects such as free love hurt her campaign? Do you think a woman running for president today would face the same kind of prejudices?
· The closely contested presidential election of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden is described as follows: “Weeks turned into months and still the election was in doubt. The election finally came down to Florida and disputed votes there. The States had no president. The Democrats were protesting fraud. Finally the election was thrown into the Supreme Court, where Republicans outnumbered Democrats.” What parellels do you see between political situations described in this book and more recent ones?
· What hardships did Freydeh Levin encounter as a Jewish immigrant in Post-Civil War New York? How were immigrants perceived at the time? Have these perceptions changed?
· Freydeh Levin is thrown into jail for manufacturing condoms. Another character, Madame Restell, is arrested for giving women abortions. What were the moral and legal attitudes toward contraception and abortion in late 19th-century America? Do you think these issues are as controversial today?
· Some of the censorship laws enacted by Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice are still on the books today. What do you think Marge Piercy is saying about such censorship in this book?