Cover image for Desire & duty at Oneida : Tirzah Miller's intimate memoir
Desire & duty at Oneida : Tirzah Miller's intimate memoir
Herrick, Tirzah Miller, -1902.
Publication Information:
Bloomington, IN : Indiana University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 204 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Corporate Subject:
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HX656.O5 H47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Written between 1867 and 1879, this memoir by the most prominent woman of the younger generation at the Oneida Community is the first that deals explicitly and openly with the sexual conflicts there. It chronicles Tirzah Miller's social and sexual life, including her relations with her uncle and lover, founder of the colony John H. Noyes, and her participation in the eugenics experiment Noyes dubbed ""stirpiculture"". Miller, a sensitive observer of the internal life at this celebrated communal family, details the shifting political forces within the community just before its breakup in 1880. Her memoir is full of intimate conversations with John H. Noyes about issues and personalities, her love affairs, her doubts about communism, her love of music, and her anguish over the loss of two partners. Throughout the account she is torn between her desire for romance and her duty to the community. The memoir, which begins when she is 20 and ends when she is 36, sheds light on several issues that are central to understanding this daring experiment in communal living and social engineering.

Author Notes

Robert S. Fogarty is Professor of History at Antioch College

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Fogarty, noted scholar of American utopianism, has edited a gem in the annals of religious communalism, the unpublished journal of Tirzah Miller (1843-1902). Miller was a member of the durable, albeit highly controversial, "Bible Communism" colonies at Wallingford, Connecticut, and Oneida, New York, founded by the charismatic and prophetic John Humphrey Noyes. Writing in the years between 1867 and 1880, Miller reveals her thoughts and activities about such matters as "complex marriages," what outsiders considered to be "free love," and "stirpiculture," an experiment in eugenics. A gifted writer, Miller shows the trauma involved with both complex marriages and stirpiculture. She seems extremely troubled about her relationship with Edward Inslee, who fathered one of her three children and left the community not long after the birth of their son. Miller's insightful comments are nicely complemented by Fogarty's lengthy introduction, in which he carefully explains the value of this document in the context of the Oneida Community and American utopianism. And Fogarty offers valuable commentary about various journal entries. Desire and Duty at Oneida is further enhanced by captivating illustrations and a useful index. All levels. H. R. Grant; Clemson University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introductionp. 3
Cast of Charactersp. 47
Trizah's Memoirp. 53
Indexp. 199