Planned Parenthood and The Gilded Hour

If you’ve read The Gilded Hour or have read anything about it, you know that the 19th century fight for access to information about birth control is a major theme. In fact, reproductive health was a major issue at the time. Doctors did sometimes end up in jail (and prison) for providing patients with information on how to prevent conception.  This subject is apparently still open to debate, as indicated by the current congressional inquiry on Planned Parenthood. 

From the day I first starting thinking about the plot and backstory for TGH, I wondered if people might dislike the novel or object to it because of the way contraception and abortion are handled.[1. I would say, for the record, that the issue in The Gilded Hour is not so much one of abortion as it is violence toward and control of women.] Though no one has come out to say it openly, on occasion I have got that impression.  So there are multiple questions: do some people dislike the novel for that reason, and if that’s the case,  will they say so, openly? And if not, why not?

Now I’m curious if anybody will speak up here. I won’t be surprised if no one is willing to grab this hot potato, but I’d sure sure be interested in your thoughts.


22 Replies to “Planned Parenthood and The Gilded Hour”

  1. Well… I’ll just dive in here.

    I dislike Planned Parenthood for my own reasons. Personal. I was raped when I was 18 and got pregnant. I went to Planned Parenthood, not informing them of the how, but saying that I thought I was pregnant and asking to get tested and for information on how to care for myself until I could see a doctor. I wasn’t given time to absorb information, I was immediately harassed by a woman trying to talk me into an abortion. Now, that may not be the norm but that was my experience.

    I personally would never get an abortion and would encourage a friend into exploring other options. However, I would support her in whatever she decided to do and hold her hand through it all.

    The book is about the oppression of women as a whole. What we as women faced in that day and time. It’s a celebration of what we have overcome.

    Yes, birth control and abortion are major themes but so is the fact that women died daily from the complications of too many pregnancies.

    The fact is this: a woman’s decision to have or prevent a child, and if needed, end a pregnancy is a private matter. Up to her and her partner.

    End soap box rant. Also, I haven’t had caffeine so excuse the rambling.

    1. Kris — I’m so sorry to hear about that whole experience. There’s no excuse for the way you were treated. The victim of a violent crime needs calm compassion and help. And so does everybody else who walks through the door.

      1. I hope that everyone comes to their senses. PP provides valuable services to women who need them. I think everyone, on both sides, needs to sit down and rationally come to a compromise.

        But asking politicians to be rational seems to be a stretch.

  2. I just finished The Gilded Hour, which means I was reading it throughout the attack on Planned Parenthood. I thought about the book this morning and found myself wishing that *everyone* today would read it. I think we are ignorant of the very long (and often heroic) struggle that brought women the right to vote in this country and certainly ignorant of the long struggle to bring contraception and abortion into the light as legal options. As recent events have shown, these rights can also be taken away from us.

    I agree that the Gilded Hour presents the desire/need to control women and the violence that always underlies that need. Status-seeking, the need to be better than, the need to control – they’re ugly parts of human nature and always with us in one way or another.

    Btw, I truly enjoyed reading both the Wilderness series and The Gilded Hour. Thank you so much for writing them.

  3. I feel about this the way I feel about suffrage, I’m so grateful that there were women brave enough to stand up and do something about the appalling situation that so many women found themselves in. People like Dr. Garrison who stood up to the Anthony Comstock’s of this world are to be congratulated, I’m not sure I’d be that brave if I was in the same situation.

    And the sad thing is that, in many respects, women today are still fighting for reproductive rights as well as having a voice in politics. I’m old enough to remember the Equal Rights Amendment and how that didn’t pass.

    1. Hi Petzi — ‘Garrison’ is a fictionalized name, but there was a female physician who went through pretty much exactly that with Comstock. She tried to sue him but unfortunately didn’t prevail. I remember the Equal Rights Amendment fight. Mostly I remember how men grinned about it failing, and how infuriating that was.

  4. I thought the discussion of birth control and abortion was one of the strongest parts of the book. The positions taken by the main characters are a reflection of their values of justice, equality and fairness — for both men and women. If people don’t like the book because of this theme, they would also have other reasons to dislike it: outspoken women and people of colour, compassion for the marginalized, favourable treatment of immigrants, etc. Let them read other books! You go Rosina!!!!

    1. Thanks, Amy. To be clear — I’m never mad or upset if somebody doesn’t like one of my novels. Not every novel is for every reader. There are a lot of novels I recognize as having merit and/or being well put together, that I just don’t like. I think of it this way: I’m not the right reader for that novel.

      In this case, I’m just wondering if one theme in this book had a negative effect on how it was received by some people.

      And thanks for joining in the discussion.

  5. Hate to say this but I don’t Tweet! Hope an email reply gets to you.
    I loved The Gilded Hour. And as I was reading it, I actually said to my husband “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Imagine my surprise when I got to the author’s note, and you had that quote above your message. Yes this is a difficult subject, but I think you handled it well and maybe educated some people.

  6. Having the issue of dealing with birth control & people like Comstock, only highlighted the struggles women faced back then, and alot of us didnt know this was the case. To me the issue was educational but also important because of the mysterious death after an attempted abortion.
    I like to read about strong female characters & how they adapt or overcome these situations so thank you.

    1. Brenda — good to know that the story made you curious about the history. That’s one of the things I like best about writing.

  7. Like many of you have already stated, reading this book has made me very interested in the history of women and women’s rights. I’ve looked up the Comstock Act, which I somewhat remembered from history classes in college, and with all that is going on today in Congress it boggles my mind how things seem to be regressing for women. Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking and timely book. I’m over halfway through it and enjoying it immensely. It definitely has not had a negative effect on me but then again, I have a liberal mind-set and believe women should have control over their own bodies.

    1. Hi Lucy — Thank you for jumping in. The Comstock Act is mind boggling, isn’t it? To me it’s a reminder that we can never take basic human rights for granted.

  8. I just finished the GH and enjoyed it immensely, as I did the Wilderness series. I appreciate the strong woman characters, in that they stand up for their beliefs and support others in doing so as well.

    I did not object to the issues of contraception or abortion in GH. I felt for those characters in their struggle to attain control of their families and reproduction. The history lesson of those times, struggles and oppression was interesting.

    I was a little disappointed in the ending, as I felt it was left hanging. So looking forward to the next book!

    1. Shawn — Thanks for the feedback. I hear from a lot of people who wanted answers to some of the storylines, but all I can say is that I hope you’ll find the book worth the wait. And I very much appreciate your support.

  9. I was the happiest of readers when I saw GH in the bookstore last Saturday. I finished it last night. I have all the Wilderness books in hardback. (They are practically committed to memory.) This was a wonderful way to continue that story and I was very impressed with how you treated the subject matter. I agree with the commentator above who said that everyone needs to be aware of this battle because these rights can be taken away. Also, thanks for picking such a great surname for your Hungarian couple. That was the icing on the cake for me. :)

    1. Hi Janet — Thank you for stopping by. I’m so pleased you liked GH. Do you speak Hungarian, by any chance? couldn’t find anyone to check my use of the language so there are, no doubt, errors.

      My Hungarian couple were based on a teacher I had in high school, and Szabo was really his last name.

  10. I do not speak Hungarian, sadly. A smattering of Slovak (that’s the other side of the family) but no Hungarian. I do, however, have a couple of friends that I am pretty sure still speak Hungarian with their families, and I can certainly put you in touch with them if you would like.

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