The Reluctant Spiritualist

The Life of Maggie Fox

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Available in hardcover, paperback and as an eBook.

Here is the first authoritative biography of Maggie Fox, the world-famous medium and cofounder of the Spiritualism movement that swept America in the mid-1800s.

In 1848 fifteen-year old Maggie and her sister Katy created rapping sounds in an upstate New York farmhouse by manipulating their toe joints, practicing until they convinced their superstitious mother their farmhouse was haunted. News spread quickly to nearby Rochester and then to New York City where newspapers publicized the girls’ ability to communicate with spirits. Before long, Maggie, Katy and a third sister became international celebrities.

By 1853 more than thirty thousand mediums were at work with Maggie among the most famous. Soon afterwards she was courted by dashing Arctic explorer, Elisha Kent Kane, who wed her in a secret ceremony.

In 1888 after Maggie denounced the faith at the New York Academy of Music, Spiritualism withered almost as quickly as it had bloomed.

Through the memoirs of the Fox sisters, the letters of Maggie’s explorer husband, contemporary newspaper accounts and other primary sources, Nancy Rubin Stuart creates a vibrant portrait of a Victorian-era woman confounded by love, family ties and the conflict between science and faith.

The Reluctant Spiritualist is a story you’ll never forget.

Praise from the Expert

“A tale of love, betrayal, and the hope that prompted an entire nation to hunt for ghosts, Nancy Rubin Stuart’s Reluctant Spiritualist lifts the veil from Maggie Fox, one of the founders of the spiritualist movement in America and the quintessential celebrity, beloved and then beleaguered. A fascinating, harrowing story.”

Brenda Wineapple, author HAWTHORNE: A LIFE

“Nancy Rubin Stuart has provided as complete a life of the elusive Maggie Fox as we are ever likely to have. Her evocative account reminds us how often Americans have mixed religious seeking with humbug.”

R. Laurence Moore, Director of American Studies, Cornell University

“Maggie Fox was one of the most fascinating women of nineteenth-century America. Nancy Rubin Stuart’s narrative of Fox’s remarkable life — a mindboggling blend of girlish romance, pathological sleaze, and sacred history — is scholarly but intimate.”

Kenneth Silverman, Professor Emeritus, New York University

“Distinguished biographer Nancy Rubin Stuart adds a string to her bow with THE RELUCTANT SPIRTUALIST. With admirable objectivity, Stuart creates a portrait of a complex woman with an undeniable although mysterious gift for telepathy. Distrusted by many, haunted by personal problems, Maggie Fox lives in these pages with a curious majesty.”

Sallie Bingham, author of TRANSGRESSIONS

“A fascinating, almost novelistic story, packed with well drawn characters. This account of the spiritualist movement in the U.S. during the 19th Century, under the influence of the Fox sisters, particularly that of Maggie Fox, is a treasure.”

Martin and Annette Meyers (AKA Maan Meyers) Authors of The Dutchman historical mysteries

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