Radiolab Episode on Member of Order of the Eagle, Ida Craddock

I was Googling around for the location of a supposed plaque placed in Philadelphia to commemorate Sacred Sexuality martyr Ida Craddock – an inductee into O.T.O. USA’s Order of the Eagle – and came across an episode of public radio’s Radiolab program devoted to her, in the wake of the publication of Leigh Schmidt’s biography Heaven’s Bride.  An excerpt from the posted description says:

‘Craddock was raised in Philadelphia by her single mother, a devout Evangelical Christian. Even as a high-schooler she was a freethinker and an activist, making it her cause “to force open the University of Pennsylvania for the admission of women.” It worked … for a little while. After passing the grueling entrance exams, she was the first woman accepted into the undergraduate liberal arts program at Penn. But a month into her first-year-fall, administrators panicked and kicked her out. She became an autodidact, and joined some high-octane reading groups and salons. One thing she taught herself was Pitman short-hand, and she made a living writing steno textbooks.

‘Now, along comes the belly dance brouhaha. Not only does Craddock argue that the dance shouldn’t be censored, but in the altogether opposite extreme, she argues that it should be “performed far and wide throughout our country.”

‘To Craddock, the belly dance was not scandalous and disgusting. Rather, it was edifying, a much-needed mix of sexuality and spirituality. (Craddock saw sex in general as a way to inculcate “communion with Deity as the third partner in marital union.” A hallowed menage à trois, if you will.) And for those who didn’t buy that argument, at the very least the dance was a “pre-nuptial educator of our young people.” As she saw it, the belly dance was good for body, mind and soul.

‘Needless to say, Craddock’s position was entirely counter to the Evangelical mood of the time. (Clergymen regularly made denunciations like “dancing is a heathen institution” that holds a prominent place only in “Sodoms and Gomorrahs.”) One prominent Episcopal priest reacted to her argument: “Indeed, the plea affords a powerful and all-sufficient reason for [belly dancing’s] banishment not only from the World’s Fair, but from the face of God’s earth.”

‘As an ad-hominem attack on Craddock, vocal religious activists noted that the unmarried Craddock’s explicit claims betrayed an immoral life. And indeed some of her claims seemed to hint that she was a bit of a libertine: Craddock wrote that the belly dance “trains the muscles of the woman in the endurance desirable in the wife … and therefore increases her capacity, not only for receiving but also for conferring pleasure.”‘

Give a listen:

Ida Craddock

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *