Leigh Eric Schmidt on Ira Craddock

Over at Flunking Sainthood, editor extraordinaire Jana Riess interviews Havard historian Leigh Eric Schmidt about his new book Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman.

Here is a taste:

You’ve had some wonderfully quirky scholarly interests in your career, everything from Christmas to ventriloquism. How did you first learn about Ida Craddock? What made you decide to devote a book to her?

Several years ago I wrote a book on the making of American spirituality and came across her in that research. She seemed like an archetypal religious seeker and would have fit quite well in that story. Her papers, though, were off at Southern Illinois University, and I never got a chance to go there until shortly after Restless Souls was done. When I saw the Craddock papers–the wealth of letters, her diary of mystical experiences, the unpublished book manuscripts–I instantly thought that hers was a story worth telling, that recovering her life from the censors, medical psychologists, lawyers, and judges offered a rare chance to hear again the suppressed voice of a one of Comstock’s targets. I also glimpsed in her story an opportunity to see the sweeping cultural conflicts of the day–ones that still shadow us in debates about religious freedom, evangelical politics, sex, and civil liberties–in a grain of sand.

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