|My Notorious Life|
The initial chapters of My Notorious Life let you know that even at the height of her success, events are conspiring against her. A woman has committed suicide in Axie's bathtub and Axie quickly moves to swap identities with her and escape the long arm of the law. Manning then takes us back, to when Axie was a thirteen-year-old trying to keep her family together. Misfortune piles upon misfortune until Axie fetches up at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Evans. Mrs. Evans treats the female patients for what are euphemistically known in the Victorian era as "women's complaints." Axie trains under her and learns to deliver babies, make "medicines" that would be banned by the FDA in a heartbeat, and how to (again euphemistically) "unblock" uterine "obstructions."
Mrs. Lohman arrested by Anthony
Comstock, February 23, 1878 issue of
The New York Illustrated Times.
My Notorious Life uses a real story from the past to highlight the fact that our society is still torn on the issues of women's reproduction. Axie is hounded by (male) police officers, judges, and journalists. A few women snub her socially, but its mostly men that try to put Axie out of business. It's easy to read Axie as a women's hero. (I certainly see her as one. I daresay the history was more complicated.) My Notorious Life is a good book if you're inclined to be liberal about women's reproductive rights. If you're not, well, there aren't many people to root for in this book if you're not pro-choice.