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The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox

Written by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Narrated by Lee Ann Howlett

Duration 14 hours and 36 minutes

*Award-winning author* (Honorable Mention, Outstanding Book Awards, American Society of Journalists and Authors, 2006)

American Spiritualism—a movement that at its peak claimed more than a million followers—was born out of the basic human longing for contact with a loved one lost to death. But Spiritualism’s true spark came in 1848 from something no more or less powerful than a bored teenage girl.

This 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.

The origins of American Spiritualism were surprisingly humble.

In 1848, 15-year-old Maggie and her sister Katy created rapping sounds by manipulating their toe joints, practicing until they convinced their parents that their farmhouse was haunted.

What started as a prank soon transformed into a movement. By 1850, Maggie’s séances stunned author James Fenimore Cooper, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, and other prominent citizens. Within a matter of weeks, Maggie and her sisters—dubbed the Rochester Rappers by the press—became celebrities.

By 1853, more than 30,000 mediums were at work, with Maggie among the most famous. But when she denounced the faith in 1888, Spiritualism withered almost as quickly as it had bloomed.

Through the memoirs of the Fox sisters, the letters of Maggie’s Arctic explorer husband, contemporary newspaper accounts, and other primary sources, Nancy Rubin Stuart creates a vibrant portrait of a Victorian-era woman at the heart of the controversies of her era.

Award-winning author Nancy Rubin Stuart’s The Reluctant Spiritualist was five years in the making, during which time she received a William Randolph Hearst Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society to research the book. The American Society of Journalists and Authors awarded The Reluctant Spiritualist honorable mention for its 2006 Outstanding Book Awards. It was also nominated for the 2006 History Book Award of the New York Historical Society.

Maggie Fox’s Spiritualistic legacy continues today with mediums, channeling, and celebrity spiritualists.


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