Today, I came across an article about Spiritualism and other societal trends and breakthroughs taking place in upstate New York in the antebellum era. It’s called “Giving Up the Ghosts” and it’s published in Drexel University’s on-line magazine, The Smart Set. The author is Stefany Anne Golberg.
The history and insight that Golberg brings to this article are precisely the reasons I was inspired to research and write The Spirit Room. What make’s a moment in history so significant compared to other moments? And why does current thinking and opinion sometimes become so powerful that people actually create change in society? And when this occurs, why do certain places experience the change in a more concentrated way than other places? I guess these are rather obvious rhetorical questions. After all, this is what history is, a human desire for change at a particular juncture. One of the many things I love about mid-nineteenth century American history in upstate New York is how much influence the thought leaders (Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Antoinette Brown Blackwell were just a few) had on everything from religion to slavery to women’s rights to culture. They were writing, speaking, convening, influencing politicians, and organizing in all the ways we do today, but without the internet, of course. But then, they had spirits to give them a hand and the spirits were readily called upon.
The Spirit Room does not tackle all the historical elements of upstate New York at the bridge of antebellum and victorian times in any sort of over-arching way, but instead my characters, the Benton sisters, are forging through them as though they are wading through the stream of history. If you have already read my novel, and want to know more about the time and place that boggled my mind as I wrote the book, please read Golberg’s article. If you haven’t yet read The Spirit Room, but you are curious about Spiritualism in the nineteenth century, please read Golberg’s article. It is a marvelous and intelligent summary of a most fascinating slice of American history.