Coming in 2016: Terrible Virtue

Terrible Virtue is captivating, powerful, headlong and inventive – just like its subject.  A beautifully wrought, compulsively readable novel.  Ellen Feldman can do anything.”

—Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra


The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world.

This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.  At once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.

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More praise for Terrible Virtue:

“Margaret Sanger was passionate about birth control, freedom, a surprising number of men and her daughter.  Ellen Feldman lets us see all these sides of one of America’s most complicated heroines, a woman who knew too well the hard choice between work and family.  An irresistible and utterly timely novel.”

—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

“How does a minimally educated, working class woman redirect the moral compass of an entire generation? Feldman shows us how in her masterful novel, Terrible Virtue. Passionate, driven, the Margaret Sanger of Feldman’s imagination is every bit as complex as the world she was determined to enlighten.”

​—Mary Beth Keane, author of Fever: A Novel of Typhoid Mary

“A fascinating exploration of Margaret Sanger as a visionary tour de force who left a stream of public victories and private casualties in her wake.   Birth control, sex, family, work, individual need, free love, the greater good—it’s all here, historically grounded but as relevant today as it was then.”

—Elizabeth Graver, author of The End of the Point

Bold and original…moral and political…Feldman gently explores the lure of complicity…questions the little deceptions and omissions that are the necessary glue of a life shared with someone else,…[and] manages to breathe immediacy into [the] decades…the originality of voice and thought [is] evident on every page…part love story, part mystery and part political thriller I would heartily recommend.
—Ellah Allfrey, All Things Considered, NPR

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ellenhomeABOUT ELLEN

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of the Unwitting, Next to Love, Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the UK’s prestigious Orange Prize, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, which was translated into nine languages, and Lucy. Terrible Virtue will be available from Harper Collins as a hardcover, audio, and e-book in March, 2016.

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