The Great Divorce by Ilyon Woo
A Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 4 Critic Reviews



Ilyon Woo’s The Great Divorce is the dramatic, richly textured story of one of nineteenth-century America’s most infamous divorce cases, in which a young mother single-handedly challenged her country’s notions of women’s rights, family, and marriage itself.
In 1814, Eunice Chapman came home to discover that her three children had been carried off by her estranged husband. He had taken them, she learned, to live among a celibate, religious people known as the Shakers. Defying all expectations, this famously petite and lovely woman mounted an an epic campaign against her husband, the Shakers, and the law. In its confrontation of some of the nation’s most fundamental debates—religious freedom, feminine virtue, the sanctity of marriage—her case struck a nerve with an uncertain new republic. And its culmination—in a stunning legislative decision and a terrifying mob attack— sent shockwaves through the Shaker community and the nation beyond.
With a novelist’s eye and a historian’s perspective, Woo delivers the first full account of Eunice Chapman’s remarkable struggle. A moving story about the power of a mother’s love, The Great Divorce is also a memorable portrait of a rousing challenge to the values of a young nation.

About Ilyon Woo

See more books from this Author
Ilyon Woo holds a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and the National Endowment for the humanities, among many others. She lives with her family in Manhattan.
Published August 10, 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press. 416 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Great Divorce

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

A history of an early 19th century struggle between a New York woman and the Shakers for the custody of her children.

Sep 17 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Divorce: A Nineteen...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Known today for their elegant hand-hewn furniture, in the early 19th century the Shakers were a radical religious sect whose members renounced sexuality, property, and family to join a Christian utopian community.

May 10 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Divorce: A Nineteen...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

But Eunice's victory was incomplete: her first reunion with her children, who had been taught to renounce family ties, required her to fight again, this time for their love.

Aug 04 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Divorce: A Nineteen...

The New Yorker

Subscribers can read the full version of this story by logging into our digital archive.

Sep 13 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Divorce: A Nineteen...

Reader Rating for The Great Divorce

An aggregated and normalized score based on 27 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review