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nakedness, bodies and the scandal of oppression

The Naked Woman in Chains Who Scandalized America

In 1847 and 1848, as their fellow Americans fought the Mexican War, crowds in Washington, DC, and then all over the nation, flocked to see her. 

In an era that had much less leisure time and fewer artistic crowd scenes, as many as 100,000 people ultimately flocked “to worship” at her “shrine of beauty.” She was breathtaking, heartbreaking, endlessly fascinating. In a Victorian Age that often choreographed elaborate emotional operas ping-ponging back and forth between repression and abandon, men and women indulged themselves, becoming overwrought. Some sighed. Some wept. This “beauty is so pure, so lofty, so sacred,” it “takes such a clinging hold upon the heart, and so subdues the whole man, that time must pass before one could speak of its merits in detail without doing violence to the emotions awakened in him,” The Courier and Enquirer reported. “I could have wept with a perfect agony of tears” upon seeing her, wrote Clara Cushman in Neal’s Saturday Gazette. The “two great sources of human interest, the human body, and, shining through it, the human soul, are here,” wrote G.H. Calvert in The Literary World, overcome by her “indescribable symmetry … matchless grace” and “infinite beauty.” 

A poet R.S.C. in The Knickerbocker Magazine revealing one striking factor – that she was naked – gushed:

“NAKED, yet clothed with chastity, SHE stands;

And as a shield throws back the sun’s hot rays,

Her modest mien repels each vulgar gaze.

Her inborn purity of soul demands

Freedom from touch of sacrilegious hands

read more – Source: Daily Beast

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