Violet Gordon-Woodhouse (The Clarion Review)
Here’s someone you might not have learned about in history class: British musician Violet Gordon-Woodhouse was born on this day in 1872. She’s known for bringing the harpsichord back into popularity, and used it to make some records. Gordon-Woodhouse was the first person to make a harpsichord recording, and the first musician to broadcast a performance with the instrument.
But her story is also infused with sexuality. She married Gordon Woodhouse in 1895, taking both his names for her professional one, and finagled a marriage very beneficial to her needs: She insisted on time to pursue her career, and to open the marriage. At one point, Gordon-Woodhouse’s menagerie of men swelled to three others besides her main husband. (Sadly, I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of this ménage a cinq.)
I first read about Gordon-Woodhouse in Betsy Prioleau’s 2004 book, “Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love.” (It’s a great book, if you’re interested in learning about women taking a no-holds-barred approach to their life and loves.) We should all aspire to lead our lives as open as Gordon-Woodhouse did.
Mormonism founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and his polygamist family
“The Talk” host Julie Chen revealed a family secret this week: her maternal grandfather was a polygamist. He had nine wives.
We’ve all seen “Big Love,” the HBO show centering on a Mormon man (Bill Paxton) and his three wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin) that ran 2006-2011. The show single-handedly brought a depiction of modern polygamy into premium cable holders’ homes and greater mainstream culture.
How common is polygamy, both in the United States and the world?
Oprah’s “Polygamy in America” report cites experts at putting the US number between 30K and 50K. Another source notes that it’s difficult to find hard numbers on polygamists because plural marriages aren’t documented.
In the greater world, Polygamy Stop estimates another 100K+ people are practice polygamy in Western Europe. The site also notes that polygamy is legal in over 150 countries in Africa, the Middle East and various countries in the Third World (none are specified).
If anything, this news gives Chen quite the conversation-starter for her next dinner party.