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Madame Restell

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A really interesting story about an infamous abortionist in New York! I found the story really interesting, but the writing style wasn't my favorite. It wasn't as captivating as I wished it would be.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Hachette Books for an egalley.

A timely nonfiction read about a 19th century woman who was controversial during her lifetime but has faded into obscurity. Jennifer Wright's well researched and very detailed book transports readers back to "Old New York" where a successful abortionist( some would argue notorious)raises the ire of the population including a politician who wanted to see her imprisoned forever.

The life of Ann Trow Sommers(Madame Restell) was quite interesting. I went into the book not knowing a thing about the woman or her craft during this period of history. I also came to understand that given the context of their lives as deemed by their current society, many women would turn on Madame Restell and offer her up to the authorities, time and time again.

Expected Publication. 28/02/23
Goodreads Review. 22/1/23
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Madame Restell tells the story of an immigrant woman who built a business providing abortions, birth control, and medical assistance in the 1830s. It’s hard to find something negative about this book. The cover is gorgeous, the book’s pacing is fantastic, and Jennifer Wright does a great job at keeping readers engaged. Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone interested in history/nonfiction and anyone looking to get into reading nonfiction.
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Excellent portrayal of one of the women who provided abortion care and reproductive healthcare to the the men and women of 19th Century NYC. Through her early work as a seamstress, butcher's helper, and and an apothecary's assistant, Ann Trow Lohman gleaned the skills which made her so successful--needlework, anatomy, and creating medicine.  There are no credible reports of her causing any deaths, which can't be said by her competitors, and she treated all who sought her out, both rich and poor. Medical history, women's rights, cultural history, and finally, legal history are all incorporated to make this a “must read” for anyone interested in the full fledged historical portrayal of one who provided women's healthcare, and its unfortunate 20th century suppression.  Fascinating and  well documented biography belongs in every library.
Thank you Hachette Books and NetGalley for the advanced readers copy.
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I'm not sure how I've studied women's healthcare and the history of abortion (with at least 20 years of analytical reading and a women's studies degree) and not heard about Madame Restell. Her story may stand out in its details of her wealth and lack of secrecy but the services she provided were also more quietly provided by numerous women during her time, before, and after. I found it interesting to learn so much about a particular person and would recommend this to anyone not familiar with the history of birth control and abortion in America, specifically in the early 1900s.
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My thanks to both NetGalley and Hachette Books for an advance copy of this history and study of women's rights, the denial of these rights, and how history takes those women who stand up and make a scene, and points out hypocrisy, and tries to eliminate them from polite history. Also my thanks to the author Jennifer Wright for writing this book, and knowing the hell that is going to be poured on her, and Hachette Books for publishing.

There are a lot of well written lines in this book by Jennifer Wright, an author that I have enjoyed reading in the past for her humourous takes on history, and women who sometimes don't except the limits that society places on them. Wright has a real skill in presenting history that is both important, and most either forgotten or misunderstood, and bringing it back to us with a style that is funny, and yet presents the reader with a different view, and a lot to think about. There is a line in the epilogue of this biography that made me stop reading and contemplate not just the words and how they were on the page, but on the state of this world and what we are leaving for the next generation. So many people are doing so many things for the children, but none of what they so seems for the children, but for a narrow minded hatred of everything that makes them feel uncomfortable. I won't quote the line, this might give some keyboard warrior the ammo to go after the author for her writing, her thoughts, and probably her looks. This is America in 2022. Madame Restell: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Old New York’s Most Fabulous, Fearless, and Infamous Abortionist is a biography about a woman who tried to help women and couples in a situation that is familiar to many, and continues to this day, and for such she made a fortune, but was hounded by those men who knew better. However this is much more than just a biography, it is a study of America and how it fights the same battles over and over with no winners, just lost people, and broken lives. 

Ann Trow was born in England, found a job as a maid, found that being a maid made her basically property to the men who owned her, something that was written about in many books, and married at sixteen to a drunkard. Coming to America, Trow's husband died, leaving her with a daughter, and few prospects, as she was a good seamstress, in a country full of them. However she remarried, to a publisher who could be considered a radical, and with an interest in women's health began to involve herself in marital relations specifically birth control, and early abortions. Trow changed her name to a French sounding one, as France was considered medically more advanced, and soon began to help both the poor and the rich, making enough buy land that a Bishop wanted for his own mansion, as Madame Restell did not suffer enemies well. However being a woman was not easy, and being a woman going against men who wanted to keep their control on women was not easy, and soon plans were made to destroy her.

A book about a woman that I had no knowledge of, nor knew even existed, nor could be allowed to exist. Wealthy with powerful friends, and an attitude of not dealing well with stupid people. Talking about reproductive health in the 19th century. I like history and read quite a bit, but still this was all new to me. The writing is very good, though I think this is the first long book that Wright has written. I was locked in from the second chapter, and couldn't believe the life the character lead, nor the lives that she changed. There is just an incredible amount of information, and research done her, and yet nothing bogs down, and the writing never seems like a lecture. More of a conversation where each fact is followed by the reader going, no way, or hell yeah. Plus this is about more than a women fighting to help other woman, it's about control, men controlling women, controlling the message, and controlling the future. This book speaks even more about today than the century it was based on.

Recommended for people who people who read women's history, history about woman and men, reproductive history, and for people who love books about people who fight for what they believe is right. The epilogue alone is worth the price of the book, and is an essay worth sharing with others. Buy it for Valentine's Day for yourself, others or for libraries so others can read it. I don't envy Wright's social media accounts, for I am sure that Wright is going to be attacked for everything, but one of my Mom's favorite sayings, a nurse who worked in maternity for quite a while, speak up no matter how much your voice might shake. I know she saw this on a bumper sticker, but it is still true. And Jennifer Wright is speaking true.
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This book is truly incredible. It's a hard read, but it's such a necessary read, especially now. Wright not only tells the story of an incredible woman, but also pulls in a lot of the history that influenced Madame Restell's career over the years. The parallels in the swings from liberal to conservative morality over the nineteenth-century are scarily in-line with our current swings. The Know-Nothing party is frighteningly similar to current alt-right politicians and groups. The epilogue is a gut-punch of a plea for level-headedness and consideration in the aftermath of the overturn of Roe v Wade. Wright gets deeply personal in that epilogue to prove her point, which is both great support for her argument and incredibly brave of her. I had to put this down at times because it made me so angry that not a lot seems to have changed for women, but that's why this book is such a necessary read.
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Thanks to Hachette Books and NetGalley for the advanced readers copy.  

Madame Restell came to America and truly remade herself.  She was a savvy business woman and knew how to work the press.  She was able to defy cultural norms of the time and amass her own wealth.  She was an important historical figure that very few know anything about.  I love the way Jennifer Wright writes!  She's witty and smart.  It makes her books so enjoyable to read!
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There's no better time than to read the story of about one of the most fearless women in New York/America.

An English immigrant who came to the U.S. to find prosperity instead finds success by helping women and men end unwanted pregnancies. While not formerly trained, she only seemed to have lost one patient out out of the thousands of BOTH men and women who sought her services. Sadly, due to a series of factors explored in this book, she's been lost to history. 

Thankfully, Jennifer Wright is here to bring her back into the light and back into our world. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Madame Restell, penned by Jennifer Wright, tells the life story of Ann Trow, who rose up from a lowly servant beginning to become an extremely wealthy--possibly the first self-made female millionaire in America--and powerful woman through her services as an abortionist.  This book is well-researched and the tone and voice of it is casual, like a story is being told to you rather than a book has flopped into your lap, which will be a great boon to those who may not ordinarily read historical topics but chose this one due to the current climate.  And BOY is it topical, given that we women are having our rights yanked away from us.  Is it fun to learn my great-great-great-great-great grandmother (I literally checked the tree to make a point here) has more rights when it comes to abortion than I do now?  Haha, it sure isn't!  But as the author shows, it's important to see how history has swung from more liberal to more conservative laws in the past, and that we should take a hint from the past and not allow ourselves to lay down without a fight.

At any rate, this book is truly fascinating.  It reads quickly; sometimes historical tomes tend toward the ponderous, but this always clips on at a steady pace.  I also really enjoyed how Madame Restell's story was grounded with examples of societal issues and strains that drove such a large rate of abortion, and the pressures that women faced from all corners to submit to their husbands and raise broods of children, never to desire working outside the home, always willing to be submissive.  It was neat to see with such research that Madame Restell bucked such notions, controlling the number of children she had, constructing her own apartment building outside of the input of her husband, and running her own business while employing men to work beneath her.

I think this book could especially resonate with a lot of women who are fired up politically, and it could be of especial benefit to those (women and men) who currently are not but ought to be.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Madame Restell: The Life Death and Resurrection of Old New York's Most Fabulous, Fearless and Infamous Abortionist
by: Jennifer Wright
Hachette Books
Due July 2023

A women the New York TImes has called "the wickest women in the world", was a successful businesswomen and immigrant, as well as an abortionist. Madame Restell began manufacturing and dispensing pill in New York City in the 1830's, after immigrating from the UK. The pills were given to help relieve liver ailments and stomach problems. She had no medical training and never studied medicine. Her popularity and demand drove a desperate women to inquire about a pill to induce an abortion. And so it all began. In the 1830's, an abortion done before the "guickening" ( about 20 weeks) was only a misdemeanor. After the "quickening", it was a felony. Women had just gained the right to keep her own property and income after marriage, and also the ability to decide if she wanted to keep her children and raise them, or send them to a wet nurse, or baby farm. Her abortion pills had very mixed reactions. 

This fascinating and timely story brings up so many other important topics that are related. Adoption. Child Labor Laws. Child Healthcare Laws. Immigration. Know Nothing Movement. Nationalist Movement. Comstock Act. These issues surround a womens right to choose. The deep and extensive research and reading is evident and presented in a postiive and open manner. Engrossing and necessary, this is such a timely book.The rights of women and the rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies is an issue, again. Many girls will grow up thinking of themselves as second-class citizens, whose health and goals are less important to people in power,  than her ability to breed. This book will make you think, consider and re-consider many important issues. Do we want to tell our daughters about that time in history, when we were her age and we owned our own bodies and made our own decisons? 
An absolutely necessary, well written novel with many timely important topics.
Highly recommended.

Thanks to net galley and Hachette Book for sending this e-book ARC for fair review.
#netgally   #MadameRestell
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I learned so much from reading this book.  Madame Restell is written in a conversational tone that is easy to read.  Along with being a biography, there is a lot of history within these pages that I previously knew nothing about.  I think that people who are interested in women's rights, biographies, New York City and history in general will enjoy and appreciate this biography.  Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.
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This history non-fiction book has never been more relevant to the United States of America, as it is now, therefore I believe it is one that really should be required reading by EVERYONE!  Whether you are Pro-Choice or Pro-Life this is very informative and packs in a walloping dose of reality.  Everything cited in this narrative is footnoted at the back of the book.  There are a lot of statistics included in here, and I was overwhelmed at times by so many numbers, but having finished this, I am quite happy that, Jennifer Wright backs up her research and data, by the sources they are derived from.  I am probably going to make a lot of enemies by personalizing my review, but I think the Author, Jennifer Wright, intends for everyone's personal stories, because she shares hers.

The book basically is about an English immigrant who migrated to New York City, during the 1800's to seek prosperity.  However, she amassed her fortune selling her pills and powders and sometimes performing surgical abortions.  Her name was Ann Trow Lohman who lived between the years of 1812-1878.  Ann started out as a seamstress, before she became known as the Country's infamous Madame Restell, whose work provided woman with pills that she made to help women and men who came to her home, where she kept an office to help those who were seeking her help in ending unwanted pregnancies.  She wasn't formerly trained as a physician, but out of the thousands of BOTH men and women who sought her services she might have only lost one patient.  She may have given away one woman's child.  Madame Restell, is not well known today, but back in the 19th century, she was very well known.  She is lost to history, the Author provides many reasons why.  I really loved this book and the vast amount of history it provides to illuminate how we as a nation are at where we are today regarding women not having the choice to terminate pregnancies even when a woman's life could be lost if she carries out the pregnancy.  Instead, the government makes that choice.  This book is very illuminating as to how and why we are where we are at this present time in, 2022.  It is really an eye opener, and I was surprised at the end how it evoked such an emotional reaction out of me.  I was left feeling very sad, but very grateful that I chose to read this timely history narrative that was so informative.

Ann trow changed her name after her first husband died, leaving her with her young daughter Caroline, where living where they did at the time, it was unsafe for a single woman, because of the part of the city where they lived there was a very high crime rate.  When she started selling her pills to help both men and women who were involved, seeking her assistance with unwanted pregnancies, she helped women self abort during the early stages of pregnancies before the quickening.  The quickening is when the baby first starts to move inside the mother.  She changed her name to Madame Restell because she wanted to bolster her image that she was from France.  Being from France, provided Madame Restell an edge, because at the time during the 1800's their healthcare was ahead of the U.S.   She thought that it lent her a more experienced sophistication even though it was an outright lie.  Abortions were being performed even though it was illegal, but this was also a time before the law was enforced with much consequence during the beginning and the middle era of Madame Restell's reigning years.  This was to change towards the end of Madam Restell's lifetime.

When Madame Restell re-married to Charles Lohman, he helped her gain more business since he worked for a newspaper, and she placed advertisements for what she did in the newspapers.  She had competitors that weren't as successful as herself that did the very same thing.  This was a time before medical schools required dissection of human cadavers and before anesthesiologists were incorporated into surgeries.  Believe it or not, there were many married women who sought out her and those like her to seek abortions.  And pre-marital sex was common throughout the 1700's and during the 1800's.  Madame Restell was bold, innovative, fearless and empathetic.  She provided her help towards her customers' taking into consideration their ability to afford her help.  She often ended up charging less to the poor.  She had still managed to become a millionaire and outbid the Archbishop in obtaining the land where she built her mansion on Fifth avenue, that was to become her final home.  She saw her customers' here as well.  She was known to let some of her patients stay overnight where she stayed in the same room with them, caring for them if their health required close monitoring.

Later during the 1800's the tides turned and abortions became illegal with much fiercer penalties, but that didn't stop either people seeking abortions or those providing them.  People just became more quiet about getting them and performing them, but they were still taking place, regardless. 

Now our Country has overturned Roe V Wade, and even though it is up to each State on whether abortions are legal, I can see that there have been more and more States to make them illegal. This includes cases of rape and incest or even death for the mother.  Here is where my review becomes more personal.  I personally, have never had an abortion, but I believe when a woman's life is in danger, such as ectopic pregnancy, which is when the zygote gets stuck in the tubes, it results in the mother's death.  I don't think that legislatures should hold the power over riding the decision for making medical determinations for women who will die if the pregnancy isn't terminated.  Especially, in the case where a woman will die if not for medical intervention, and that is my opinion and I am entitled to it.  That this book is filled with so much history--is the reason that everybody should read it.  For those who disagree, you are also entitled to your opinion, and I respect that.  So please respect mine.

Publication Date:  February 28th, 2023

Thank you to Net Galley, Jennifer Wright and Hachette Books for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

#MadameRestall  #JenniferWright  #HachetteBooks  #NetGalley
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Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Books for sending this book for review consideration! All opinions are my own. 

"When the Catholic Church spoke out against her, she outbid the archbishop of New York for the land he wanted to build his house on. There, she built a mansion, and from it she doled out birth control to her many patients. She did not ask for any man's opinion, for she was not interested in hearing it." (A quote which made me laugh out loud.)

I was interested in this book because I had never heard of Madame Restell. As soon as I started reading about her and the towering figure she was during her time, I was even more shocked I hadn't heard of her, since she clearly had a significant impact on the women of New York during the 1800s. However, I also sort of understand why I haven't. Because of the controversial nature of her profession, I am sure history has tried to tuck her away in a closet somewhere because her story is so uncomfortable to talk about. As abortion becomes an increasingly hot topic, especially here in the U.S., I am so glad this book exists to bring her back to folks' attention. Many of the quotes in the book are relevant to us today and support the argument that the freedom to choose should be available to all.

Madame Restell was certainly a polarizing figure in her time because of what she did and how she did it. While these things lead me to believe she was a badass, I also think I'd be totally intimidated by her. I might not even like her very much if I met her today because it seems like she could be a stone cold b*tch...but I sure would respect her. 

She was an unapologetically wealthy woman, making money for herself without the assistance or approval of men. Her services were controversial and illegal. What made her scarier was that she not only persisted in providing them, she made a lot of money. She also was not always "good." She played dirty with her competition and, far worse, possibly gave away a patient's baby. At times, she seems awesome. At times, she seems ruthless. Most likely she was both at the same time.

But, you know what? I think I actually like this honesty. Remember when we were kids and we were taught that the Founding Fathers were cool dudes who believed in liberty and justice and made America happen? Then we grew up and realized they didn't want women to have the vote, owned slaves, and had secret families and stuff? I think Madame Restell is far cooler than most of those old white guys, but she's still an imperfect human, and I think it's easier to like her knowing what her flaws are than if we brushed them under the rug. 

One thing I like about this book is that it takes an old story and tells it in a modern way. For example, in the first couple pages, the author shares a dialogue:

"Where am I to go?" she inquired.
"Before the judge!" Comstock said. 
"With these men?" Her eyes said: hell no.

I love a good "hell no." There are also some modern references and other more conversational turns of phrase throughout the book, which help keep a very hefty biography from becoming too sluggish. 

This book is quite long. I couldn't say how many pages since I am reading a Kindle copy, but I had been reading this book for several days and found I was still only 30% of the way in and that my Kindle estimated 6-7 hours left. It can be challenging to keep the necessary momentum at times here, because this is not a linear story and often spends many chapters discussing the impact and public perception of Madame Restell, to the point where it can become somewhat tedious. This criticism may say more about my currently short attention span than the book, though! Luckily, every time I started to get bored, the topic finally changed, and a new event in Madame's life would be told, and recapture my interest. 

Additional bonus - one has to love hearing what 1800s men thought about women, their sexuality, and their parts. It's comedic gold.

The book concludes with a reflection on the modern day, particularly the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and what it means for women in 2022. The author shared her personal experience with giving birth, which I thought was a vulnerable and lovely way to bring a historical book back to the present. By the time I finished the book, I felt it had had a significant impact on me and brought the story of a woman from long ago full circle to my modern circumstances. 

This book provides a fascinating education on a woman not enough of us know about. Madame Restell is a complicated, courageous, ruthless, badass woman. She can teach all of us something about reproductive freedom and, most importantly, a woman's right to do whatever the f*k she wants.
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Awesome nonfiction book. I feel like I learnt a lot and I enjoyed reading this immensely as I was transported to a different time period. I would recommend if you like nonfiction books about woman in history.
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Madame Restell by Jennifer Wright is a fabulous and interesting nonfiction and biography of a woman that was most certainly larger than life.

Madame Restell (Ann Trow Lohman who lived 1812 – 1878) was alive during the rough beginnings of women’s healthcare and rights in NY during the 19th century. She was a force to be dealt with. I had actually never heard if this British-born woman who immigrated to the States and through obstacles, uphill battles, oppositions, and true passion, conviction, determination, and perseverance, became a voice for many women and publicized the eternal debate of women’s access and availability to medical procedures (aka abortion). 

Was she perfect? Nope. But she believed in what she worked for and seemed impossible to the exhausted attempts of others to thwart her at every turn. Controversial? Yep. Fascinating? Absolutely. 

I learned a lot and was entertained while doing so. One doesn’t have to personally agree with her beliefs to find her very interesting. 

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Hachette Books for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 02/28/23.
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I hadn't really heard of Madame Restell before so I was excited to learn about a new person in history. Jennifer Wright has a great writing style and you could tell that she researched the topic and made it interesting for the reader. It was a really great read overall and I enjoyed what I read, it was everything I was hoping for. I look forward to reading more from Jennifer Wright.

"AFTER THE PASSAGE OF THE COMSTOCK ACT, MADAME RESTELL’S practice was still operational, but she had paid special attention to the new laws, and was trying, as much as was possible for her, to be discreet. Her newspaper advertisements diminished substantially. Where once she wrote paragraphs about the effects of bearing too many children, by 1874 her new wording in the Herald stated only her address and that she had been a “physician since 1840."
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