Tomorrow, October 16, is the feast of Dame Ida Craddock. Born in Philadelphia on August 1, 1857, she was inducted into the Order of the Eagle by O.T.O. USA in April 1999 EV.
Ida Craddock wrote about sex and sexuality in a time when such information was deemed obscene and immoral. Her own mother had her committed to try to stop her from talking about her “heavenly bridegroom,” whom she said was “… in the world beyond the grave, and had been for many years previous to our union …” She stated bluntly that they had sex, and even described it in fairly transparent terms.
She defended the 1893 World’s Fair presentation of belly dance, to the horror of Anthony Comstock, United States Postal Inspector and secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. She wrote articles and books with titles like “Spiritual Joy,” “Psychic Wedlock” and “Heavenly Bridegrooms.”
Craddock also started writing sex advice manuals. Many confused and apprehensive newlyweds turned to her for help. Her popularity soared because she gave frank, clear and helpful sexual advice in an environment where no one else would dare to. She wrote over 600 titles like “Helps to Happy Husbands” and “Right Marital Living” which covered everything from birth control to masturbation to romance to religion. This was the very beginning of the field of sexology, and despite the fact that supposedly ALL of her sexual experience was with a ghost, Ida Craddock was at the forefront.
Comstock had Craddock arrested for distributing these profane documents through the US Postal Service. She refused to plead insanity, and was sentenced to three months’ hard labor. To Craddock, serving time would mean admitting to guilt; she chose instead to end her life. She wrote two suicide notes, one to her mother, and one to the public.
To the public, she asked:
As I said not long since in the Boston Traveler, if the reading of impure books and the gazing upon impure pictures does debauch and corrupt and pervert the mind (and we know that it does), when we reflect that Anthony Comstock has himself read perhaps more obscene books, and has gazed upon perhaps more lewd pictures than has any other one man in the United States, what are we to think of the probable state of Mr. Comstock’s imagination today upon sexual matters?