BEHOLD THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE is a little bit You Never Forget Your First, a little bit The Knick, a dash of The Age of Innocence, and a sprinkle of The Shawshank Redemption.
BEHOLD THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE
by Jennifer Ashley Wright
Hachette Books, Spring 2023
This sharp, witty Gilded Age medical history stars Madame Restell, a glamorous women’s healthcare provider in Manhattan, who was a celebrity in her era and a Moira Rose-esque figure with a flair for high fashion and petty public beefs. The story of Restell’s struggle to care for New York’s unmarried women—providing abortions, birth control, and other assistance—in defiance of increasing persecution from powerful men, it ends not in outright tragedy, but with a glorious, life-affirming, bittersweet twist. That this book doubles as a history of women’s health—and the propaganda on which the “pro-life” movement was founded—makes it not just entertaining, but profoundly comforting for feminist readers. Few and far between are the books expanding our sense of hope, humor, and what’s possible for women’s rights in this politicized arena, one which augurs some real downer developments in the coming years. BEHOLD THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE does just that, and it does so in a sumptuous, character-driven, frequently funny package.
Jennifer Ashley Wright has written beloved pop history collections from It Ended Badly and Get Well Soon (Holt) to the forthcoming She Kills Me, an illustrated field guide to righteous women who have committed murder (Abrams Image). BEHOLD THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE is Wright’s first work of single narrative history.