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With Friends Like These: E. D. E. N. Southworth and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes’s Pathological Poisoners

  • Sara L. Crosby
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

Crosby examines how two of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s colleagues, E. D. E. N. Southworth and Oliver Wendell Holmes, kept her medical frame for the poisonous woman but nonetheless tried to contain the radical political potential of her medicinal poisoner. Southworth’s novel Vivia; or the Secret of Power reconceived the medically empowered woman as sociopathic, while Holmes’s bestseller, Elsie Venner, presented the mixed-race “Spanish” female poisoner as a medical problem rather than a medical hero. Both worked to maintain the white woman as a pure, all-giving resource for white men, rather than an agent for women’s or minorities’ own power. Stowe answers these arguments with her magnum opus, The Pearl of Orr’s Island, and with My Wife and I, which insist on a cross-racial, self-preserving, and medically-informed female heroism.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara L. Crosby
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ohio State University at MarionMarionUSA

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