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Angela Fiducia Heywood (1840–1935) was a radical writer and activist, known as a free-love advocate, suffragist, socialist, spiritualist, labor reformer, and abolitionist.

Angela Heywood was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire, around 1840 to Daniel and Lucy Tilton. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a radical thinker who was descended from the philosopher John Locke.[1] Lucy taught all six of her children sex education from an early age, encouraging them not to use euphemisms or be secretive about sex.[2]

WWhen the family fell into poverty, Heywood earned money as a housemaid for Reverend John Prince, and later as a caregiver to the child of Reverend Charles J. Bowen of Newburyport, Massachusetts.[2] This work gave her a perspective on wage labor which would influence her later views on labor reform. When she was eighteen, Heywood had a religious experience and became active in her church, though she later criticized the church quite harshly in her writings.

TThough she had little formal education, Heywood was politically conscious, and she joined the abolitionist movement. Through this activism, she met her husband Ezra Heywood, a fellow abolitionist and a labor reformer. They were married in Old South Church in Boston on June 5, 1865, and moved to the town of Princeton, Massachusetts, where they bought a large house from which to run their publishing business. They had four children together, named Psyche, Angelo, Vesta, and Hermes.[3]

BBetween May 1872 and April 1893, Angela and Ezra worked together to publish The Word: A Monthly Journal of Reform. They called their business the Cooperative Publishing Company, and eventually became infamous for their blunt discussions of taboo subjects. /p>

The Word catered to many different movements, including free love, women's suffrage, socialism, and labor reform. It published a variety of works, such as essays, editorials, and book reviews. Ezra Heywood also wrote and distributed a series of pamphlets entitled Cupid's Yokes, which condemned the institution of marriage as akin to slavery for women.[4]

Heywood herself was a frequent writer for The Word, and considered herself to be a "word-painter,"[5] referring to her own beliefs as a kind of “ethics” or “religion”[6] to be followed. She wrote extensively on a variety of topics, but was most well known for her writings on sexuality. She believed that there were specific moral codes that men and women should follow. This especially applied to men, who she believed should be obligated to control their sexual desires and take responsibility for their actions. This meant, among other things, that they should acknowledge their illegitimate children rather than leaving the children and their mothers to be stigmatized by society.

According to Heywood, women needed to realize that they too were allowed to derive pleasure from sex. In some ways, however, Heywood did subscribe to the gender stereotypes of the time. For example, even though she believed that women could feel sexual “passion,” she did not think it was in their nature to consider the possibility of sex without love, whereas men were likely to do this.[7]

In addition to her writings about sex, Heywood championed women's suffrage and wrote passionate arguments against rape. She was a labor reformer, and believed wealthy women to be “morally corrupt”[8] because they did not work. She ardently defended prostitutes, blaming their poverty and desperation on the men who exploited them, while most people of the time simply blamed the women themselves for the institution of prostitution.

Heywood was also an anarchist and a spiritualist, meaning that she rejected the authority of the government and the church. She believed the church to be too constricting in its treatment of female sexuality, and said that the “church-state grip” on sexual knowledge caused “women and labor” to be put into a place of “subjected destitution.”[9] It is unclear why or when the church fell out of favor in her mind, but it likely happened sometime between 1865, when she got married in a church, and 1872, when she began writing for The Word, criticizing the church. Her husband's view that the church played too large a role in marriage may have influenced Heywood's change of heart in this matter.

Heywood's anarchist beliefs were largely influenced by the fact that women did not have the right to vote. She supported women's suffrage, but believed that reform alone would not be enough to change the ideology of the government; women, she said, should not have to acknowledge the state's legitimacy since the state did not acknowledge theirs. She even felt that the United States was “not a republican government,”[10] since a republic is meant to be for the people and the government only catered to the needs of half the population.

HHeywood was heavily influenced by the practices of the Oneida Community of New York, especially its leader, John Humphrey Noyes.[11] This community had a strong belief in free love and operated on a system of “complex marriage,” in which every community member was essentially considered to be married to all the others in the community and could have sexual relationships with anyone they chose. This corresponded with Heywood's dislike of secrecy surrounding sexuality, and likely influenced her writings for The Word.

Unfortunately, the Heywoods' lack of money meant that Angela had to spend much of her time doing housework and had little time left over to write. She could not attend many conferences because she had to take care of the children. At one point, Ezra published a plea for funds in an issue of The Word, writing, “A.T.H. needs money to liberate herself from too much housework, so she can give more time to writing…Will not financially able men and sympathetic women help her ‘articulate’ by pouring in cash?”[12] The Word actually stopped being published between 1890 and 1892 when Ezra was in prison and Angela did not have time to run it herself.

Over the years, Angela wrote prolifically for The Word, and was often angry at Ezra for editing her essays and cutting out what she felt were important parts (though he never censored her strong language). Despite Angela’s massive contributions to The Word,, however, only Ezra was ever credited as editor, except for six months in 1878 when he was in jail and Benjamin Tucker took over as his substitute. However, Angela was always considered to be the unofficial co-editor.

The Word stopped being published after Ezra's death in May 1893, and little is known about the rest of Angela's life, though a neighbor recalled that she was “doing day work in office buildings.”[18]

According to her daughter Psyche, Angela Heywood died at the age of 95.


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