WCW 20 Ida Craddock

Ida Craddock (1857-1902) was the first woman to pass the undergraduate entrance exams to the University of Pennsylvania, however the Board of Trustees blocked her admittance as a student because she was a woman. She went on to become a stenographer. She wrote a textbook on stenography and taught at Girard College. 

In her thirties she became very interested in the occult. She studied Ouija boards,Tantric Yoga, and Alaskan totem poles. In 1889, she declared herself Priestess and Pastor of the Church of Yoga and said that she was the heavenly bride of an angel named Seroph. Her mother tried to commit her. 

Craddock moved to Chicago and opened a clinic for sex counseling for married couples. She wrote many instructional pamphlets on sex and healthy sexual relations between husband and wife, such as “Heavenly Bridegrooms” “Spiritual Joys”, “Letter To A Prospective Bride”, and “The Wedding Night”. She encouraged married couples to seek a religious experience during sex not just satisfaction of flesh. Legendary mystic and occult leader Aleister Crowley gave glowing reviews of her book “Heavenly Bridegrooms”.

In 1893, when moral crusader Andrew Comstock tried to shut down Little Egypt’s belly dance (WCW 22) at the Chicago World’s fair, Craddock wrote a four page essay to defend the dance as a "much needed blend of sexuality and spirituality”. Comstock refused to let Craddock legally mail pamphlets defending belly dancing. (The Comstock Act, which called for the "Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use", was named after him.)

Craddock continued to promote sex manuals and sexual spirituality. She was regularly arrested and jailed for sending obscene material through the mail. Her final conviction was in New York state in 1902. The judge declared he would not let the jurors see the booklet, “The Wedding Night”, because it was "obscene, lewd, lascivious, dirty". She was given a five year sentence. Rather than go to jail, she wrote a long letter of goodbye to her mother condemning Comstock for his role in her arrests. She considered him and his vice squad. “the Holy Fathers of the American Inquisition,” and committed suicide.

Her manuscript and letters are preserved at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She has been the subject of a 2006 play called “Smut” and there are several books revisiting her life and writings. 

Read “The Wedding Night” and judge for yourself:

In 1900, Ida Craddock also wrote about the medical myth that the hymen proves virginity in “The Wedding Night”. It is only in the past few years that this dangerous myth which is often used as justification for honor killing and basis of completely unnecessary “revirgination surgery” has been openly discussed. The Virginity Fraud has been a subject of a 2017 Tedx talk by Nina Dølvik Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl

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