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Book cover of Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community

Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community

by Spencer Klaw

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pages: 352
Paperback
ISBN: 9780140239300






Available to Buy

Overview of Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community

Without Sin chronicles the rise and fall of nineteenth-century America's most succesful experiment in Utopian living: New York's Oneida Community (1848-1880). Founded by the charismatic Christian Perfectioniost John Humphrey Noyes, this remarkable society flourished for more than thirty years as a unique world where property was shared, men and women were equals, sex was free and open, work was to be joyous, and pleasure was felt to be "the very business that God set Adam and Eve about."

Working with the unpublished letters and diaries of Oneida's own members, Klaw has produced a fascinating study of religion, morals, and utopian idealism--"a sympathetic but shrewd account of one of America's most successful--and most sexually obsessed--religious cults" (Geoffrey C. Ward, co-author of The Civil War). 8 pages of photos.

Synopsis of Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community

Spencer Klaw's Without Sin chronicles the rise and fall of nineteenth-century America's most successful experiment in Utopian living: the Oneida Community in upstate New York. Founded in 1848 by a small band of Christian Perfectionists under the leadership of John Humphrey Noyes, the Community flourished for more than thirty years. Before it was finally destroyed by a fierce internal dispute - as well as external attacks by a legion of self-appointed "guardians of public morals" - Oneida could boast some three hundred practicing members who, following the tenets of Noyes's "Bible Communism," collectively owned and operated a number of profitable factories and mills and drew thousands of curious visitors to see how they lived. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of life at Oneida was the highly unorthodox sexual regimen prescribed by its founder, who believed that in a community of true Christians, God did not intend love between men and women to be confined to the narrow channels of conventional matrimony. In the Oneidan system of "complex marriage," every woman in the Community was considered to be married to every man, resulting in a virtually constant exchange of sexual partners. Oneidan men were required to practice a special technique of birth control, freeing the women from the burden of bearing unwanted children. Child-rearing, like most work at Oneida, was shared by the Community's men and women. According to Noyes's view, work, like sex, was intended to be joyous: Oneidans were encouraged to change jobs often to prevent boredom, and whenever possible hard and monotonous work was transformed into a game or social occasion. Working for more than a decade from the letters and diaries - many previously unpublished - of Oneida's own members, Spencer Klaw has rescued a largely forgotten chapter in American history, reminding us of one of the most successful attempts ever made to build a society in which men and women could live together harmoniously sharing

Publishers Weekly

From 1848 to 1880 a unique experiment in cooperative living took place in Oneida, N.Y. This was a utopian socialistic society founded by John Humphrey Noyes, a follower of Christian Perfectionism, a belief in moral perfection and in separation from the world of sinners. Drawing on documents left by some of the original 200-plus members, Klaw ( The Great American Medicine Show ) provides an informative account of the commune. In his striving for the perfection of life without sin, Noyes imposed ``complex marriage'' at Oneida, a system that provided men and women with multiple sex partners and prohibited monogamy because ``it impeded the free flow of Christian love.'' Conception of children was forbidden unless Noyes approved of the genetic attributes of the prospective parents. Members pooled their labor and had cooperative ownership of the animal trap and silverware business that supported them. After Noyes fled to Canada in 1879 in fear of prosecution for unorthodox sex practices, residents gradually adopted more traditional social arrangements. (Sept.)

About the Author, Spencer Klaw

Spencer Klaw has written for Esquire, Harper's, American Heritage, and The New York Times Magazine, among other magazines and journals. He is the author of The New Brahmins: Scientific Life in America and The Great American Medicine Show. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Barbara.

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

From 1848 to 1880 a unique experiment in cooperative living took place in Oneida, N.Y. This was a utopian socialistic society founded by John Humphrey Noyes, a follower of Christian Perfectionism, a belief in moral perfection and in separation from the world of sinners. Drawing on documents left by some of the original 200-plus members, Klaw ( The Great American Medicine Show ) provides an informative account of the commune. In his striving for the perfection of life without sin, Noyes imposed ``complex marriage'' at Oneida, a system that provided men and women with multiple sex partners and prohibited monogamy because ``it impeded the free flow of Christian love.'' Conception of children was forbidden unless Noyes approved of the genetic attributes of the prospective parents. Members pooled their labor and had cooperative ownership of the animal trap and silverware business that supported them. After Noyes fled to Canada in 1879 in fear of prosecution for unorthodox sex practices, residents gradually adopted more traditional social arrangements. (Sept.)

Booknews

For more than 30 years (1848-1880), the Oneida community in upstate New York, a utopian communal experiment founded on love, sex, and Christ, flourished under the leadership of its founder John Humphrey Noyes. This account chronicles its rise and fall. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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