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Word, The.


"Plain English":
Angela Heywood, Sexual Nomenclature, and The Word
[Angela Fiducia Tilton Heywood]. Heywood, Ezra & Benjamin Tucker (eds). The Word. A Monthly Journal of Reform. Vol. 1, no. 2 - vol. 5, no. 12; vol. 7, no. 6 - vol. 20, no. 9 (June 1872 - April 1877; October 1878 - March 1893). 194 (of 214) issues.
183 vols.; Folio; 11 vols.; 4to.; each number bifolium, 4 pp.; light wear. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
A nearly complete run of The Word, one of the most radical journals devoted to women's rights published in the 19th century, incorporating at its center the writings of one of the most outspoken and underrepresented figures in American feminism, Angela Fiducia Tilton Heywood. One of the first women to advocate for compensation to women for domestic work, Heywood was also one of the foremost proponents of Individualist Feminism and of the Free Love movement, which stringently opposed the interference of the State into matters of marriage and sexuality, and which sought to initiate a public discourse on sexuality and sexual physiology. Largely at Heywood's insistence, The Word adopted a "plain-language" policy which insisted on calling sexual organs by their proper name rather than by euphemism, and in her articles Heywood maintained this policy unapologetically. In "The Woman's View of It - No. 3," she writes, "Why blush or be shamefaced in Stirpiculture more than in Agriculture, Horticulture, Floriculture or amid iron-clad, steel bright golden-pure wonders of Mechanics? Are not the Penis & Womb as native, handsome & worthy in use as pivot & socket, pistil & stamen, pollen & ovule?" (March 1883). Far from seeking merely to ruffle the feathers of prudish moralists, Heywood believed that a candid discourse on sexuality was of the utmost consequence to the rights of women:  
Not the voting question merely but the Sex Question, calls for discovery and Conversation; in dark, hidden ways men legislate on the use & destiny of women's bodies,- when we may or may not conceive; whether we shall have syringes to take an injection, enema, or for other cleansing purposes, & Citizens are imprisoned for daring to ask the reason why! Not I merely, but women everywhere, by dumb suffering if not in worded protest, resent rude perversion of Natural Law in Physiological Morals & Associative Destiny. (ibid)
Heywood constantly defended her position against charges of obscenity, as for example in an article titled "Personal Health - Social Propriety":
It is senseless frivolity to be afraid of Facts. Are the brain and tongue more worthy factors of man's body-life? His penis, its doings and not-doings, its use and responsibility, as much need to be felt, thought, talked, written and printed about as his eye, face or hand, and must be so dealt with in the future. If the words harlot and prostitute, syphilis, clap or the names of other diseases do not trouble us in literature, why cringe and blush at penis? ... This rude cry of "obscenity" bespeaks latent disease, mental syphilis. (September 1887)
Again addressing the issue of indecency, Heywood writes, in "Sex Nomenclature - Plain English":
Indigent sentiment concerning woman's generative nature plucks out the very eye-sight of Knowledge, by falsifying words; secrecy rather than sacredness is o'er prevailing habit; shamefaced pretense which dares not put the sex organs in marble or on canvass, masquerades as would be culture and good sense. The question is whether girls and boys of the street, who speak strait to the fact, as sun-light shineth, are truer and purer than "ladies" in parlors who call man's penis his "teapot," his "thing." (April 1887)
Heywood was the object of intense backlash for her "plain language" articles. An excerpt from a letter by one Laura C. Eldridge of Boston, published in The Word for September of 1892, is typical of the kind of excoriation Heywood regularly received:
Angela, Angeline - or whatever your name is - Heywood, no words in the language could express my feelings in regard to you - why, you wretched, miserable, dirty creature, what are you thinking of? You foul mouthed, disgusting thing! You ought to be tied to a whipping post until you promised to use decent language. ... why no old prostitute that walks the streets of our city can begin to equal your vulgarity!
The editor of The Word was Heywood's husband, Ezra Heywood, author of the notorious Cupid's Yokes, a pamphlet which discussed sexuality in frank terms and argued for the submission of sexual passions to reason. Frequently cited today for its importance in bringing birth control into the public discourse, Cupid's Yokes resulted in jail sentences for Ezra on several occasions for distributing the pamphlet in violation of the Comstock Laws, which prohibited the distribution of obscene materials through the mails. In addition to detailing Ezra's frequent court battles (which the Heywoods viewed as important to raising the profile of their cause), The Word reported on efforts of sympathetic journals like Lucifer and Liberty; aggregated and responded to criticisms under a column titled "The Opposition"; published correspondence; advertised publications on sexuality and birth control, including Cupid's Yokes; and published articles and analysis on labor, economics, religion, law and the state.   
The Word featured contributions from many other important feminists besides Angela Heywood, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elmina Drake Slenker, and Josephine R. Stone. In "Women of The Word: A Biographical Dictionary of the Day-to-Day Radicals," (see reference below) Wendy McElroy provides a list of more than 150 women who contributed to, worked on, or were mentioned in the pages of The Word, testifying to the journal's importance to American feminism at the end of the Nineteenth Century. This near complete run of The Word - including three issues edited by Ezra Heywood's protégé, the radical activist Benjamin Tucker, who took over for Heywood while the latter was serving a jail sentence related to one of the Comstock trials -contains some of the most provocative literature in the annals of feminism.  
Grossly underrepresented in the histories of feminism, both The Word and Angela Heywood have been the subject of growing academic interest.
See further: Individual Feminism of the Nineteenth Century Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001 and Battan, Jesse F. "The Word Made Flesh": Language, Authority, and Sexual Desire in Late Nineteenth-Century America in The Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Oct., 1992), pp. 223-244.

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