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The unfit heiress : the tragic life and scandalous sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt

by Farley, Audrey Clare,

Format: Print Book 2021
Availability: Available at 11 Libraries 11 of 13 copies
Available (11)
Location Collection Call #
CLP - Brookline Non-Fiction Collection CT275.H5888 F37 2021
Location  CLP - Brookline
Collection  Non-Fiction Collection
Call Number  CT275.H5888 F37 2021
CLP - Main Library First Floor - New Non-fiction CT275.H5888 F37 2021
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  First Floor - New Non-fiction
Call Number  CT275.H5888 F37 2021
CLP - Squirrel Hill Fiction Collection CT275.H5888 F37 2021
Location  CLP - Squirrel Hill
Collection  Fiction Collection
Call Number  CT275.H5888 F37 2021
Carnegie Library of Homestead New Non-Fiction 92 Hewi
Location  Carnegie Library of Homestead
Collection  New Non-Fiction
Call Number  92 Hewi
Monroeville Public Library New Books 362.198 FARLEY
Location  Monroeville Public Library
Collection  New Books
Call Number  362.198 FARLEY
Mt. Lebanon Public Library Non-Fiction 362.198 Far
Location  Mt. Lebanon Public Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
Call Number  362.198 Far
Oakmont Carnegie Library Non-Fiction B HEW
Location  Oakmont Carnegie Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
Call Number  B HEW
Scott Township Library New Material B HEWITT
Location  Scott Township Library
Collection  New Material
Call Number  B HEWITT
Sewickley Public Library New Book B HEWITT 2021
Location  Sewickley Public Library
Collection  New Book
Call Number  B HEWITT 2021
Upper St. Clair Township Library Biography & Memoir 92 HEWITT Ann Cooper
Location  Upper St. Clair Township Library
Collection  Biography & Memoir
Call Number  92 HEWITT Ann Cooper
Whitehall Public Library Biography Collection BIOG 92 Hewitt, Ann Cooper
Location  Whitehall Public Library
Collection  Biography Collection
Call Number  BIOG 92 Hewitt, Ann Cooper
Unavailable (2)
Location Collection Status
Northland Public Library New Books CHECKED OUT
Location  Northland Public Library
Collection  New Books
Pleasant Hills Public Library Nonfiction CHECKED OUT
Location  Pleasant Hills Public Library
Collection  Nonfiction

At the turn of the twentieth century, American women began to reject Victorian propriety in favor of passion and livelihood outside the home. This alarmed authorities, who feared certain "over-sexed" women could destroy civilization if allowed to reproduce and pass on their defects. Set against this backdrop, THE UNFIT HEIRESS chronicles the fight for inheritance, both genetic and monetary, between Ann Cooper Hewitt and her mother Maryon.

In 1934, aided by a California eugenics law, the socialite Maryon Cooper Hewitt had her "promiscuous" daughter declared feebleminded and sterilized without her knowledge. She did this to deprive Ann of millions of dollars from her father's estate, which contained a child-bearing stipulation. When a sensational court case ensued, the American public was captivated. So were eugenicists, who saw an opportunity to restrict reproductive rights in America for decades to come.

This riveting story unfolds through the brilliant research of Audrey Clare Farley, who captures the interior lives of these women on the pages and poses questions that remain relevant today: What does it mean to be "unfit" for motherhood? In the battle for reproductive rights, can we forgive the women who side against us? And can we forgive our mothers if they are the ones who inflict the deepest wounds?

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "In 1934, Ann Cooper Hewitt underwent what she thought was an appendectomy. To her shock and horror, she discovered that her fallopian tubes had been removed. Ann's money-grubbing mother, Maryon, had conspired with doctors to label Ann "feeble-minded" and therefore subject to involuntary sterilization under California law. Maryon had her eyes on Ann's considerable inheritance, which included a child-bearing stipulation. The resulting trial was a media circus that skyrocketed women's reproductive rights, sexual liberation, and eugenics to the forefront of the public's attention. The salacious details of the trial placed both women under intense scrutiny by the press, making them tabloid fodder for years. Farley takes creative license to set the scene and craft conversations, a method that creates an extremely readable narrative. She goes beyond Ann's story to include the voices of Black, Indigenous, Latina, and poor white women forcibly sterilized throughout modern history--segments that very well could have been expanded into their own book. Given the allegations of forced sterilization at ICE detention centers in 2020, this book is as timely as ever. A gripping tale about the atrocity of systematic reproductive control."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Historian Farley debuts with an intriguing account of socialite Ann Cooper Hewitt, who filed a $500,000 lawsuit against her mother in 1936 for having her sterilized in order to deprive her of her inheritance. According to Farley, Cooper Hewitt's lawsuit "spark a nationwide debate on the changing nature of womanhood, the purpose of sexuality, and the merits of allowing doctors to decide who did and didn't reproduce." Farley sketches the history of the eugenics movement and fears over the emergence of the "New Woman" in early 20th-century America, but the narrative is at its most immersive when delving into the exploits of Cooper Hewitt's mother, Maryon, who got rich by marrying well and often. Eleven months before Ann's 21st birthday, Maryon, claiming that her daughter, who had suffered from "bronchial trouble" as a girl, was "feeble-minded" and "over-sexed," bribed two doctors to remove Ann's fallopian tubes during an appendectomy (if she died childless, Ann's inheritance would revert to Maryon). After Maryon attempted suicide and the doctors who performed the procedure were acquitted of criminal charges, Ann settled the lawsuit for $150,000. Later chapters covering more recent cases of women sterilized without their informed consent feel more obligatory than essential, but Farley sets a brisk pace and persuasively reimagines the dynamic between Ann and Maryon. This is an eye-opening portrait of an obscure yet fascinating case. (Apr.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Hewitt, Ann Cooper, -- 1914-1956.
Hewitt, Ann Cooper, -- 1914-1956 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
Heiresses -- United States -- Biography.
Socialites -- United States -- Biography.
Involuntary sterilization -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Reproductive rights -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Publisher New York :2021
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description viii, 292 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 269-292).
ISBN 9781538753354
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