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Elmina D. Slenker to Walt Whitman, 3 August [1888?]

 loc.03693.001_large.jpg Friend Whitman1

I hear thee is far from well, I want to send thee one more appreciative greeting & to tell thee, thee has one appreciative worshipper way off here in Old Virginia

One who has quoted from thy Leave of grass persistantly ever since it appeared, and this, together with other hygienic sex work, has robbed me of friends, husband, & perhaps of all the little savings of a life-time as O'Va. Law allows the man to sell all & the wife to be turned from house & home till he dies when she can get her third of what he does not squander

I want thee to feel that thy work has done much for needed Sexual Reform

Respectfully Elmina D. Slenker2  loc.03693.002_large.jpg  loc.03693.003_large.jpg  loc.03693.004_large.jpg  loc.03693.005_large.jpg  loc.03693.006_large.jpg  loc.03693.007_large.jpg  loc.03693.008_large.jpg

Elmina Drake Slenker (1827–1908) was born in New York; she was the daughter of Thomas Drake (1800–1865) and his wife Eliza (1800–1884). She was an author, an early sex reformer, and a proponent of Free Thought. In 1887, she spent six months in jail for violating the Comstock Act, which prohibited the delivery of materials with sexually explicit content via the U. S. Postal Service. Elmina married Isaac Slenker in 1856, and they later lived in Virgina. She served as an assistant editor of the New York Physiologist and Famiy Physician in the early 1880s and was in charge of the "Children's Corner" column in the Boston Investigator for several years. She also wrote the books Studying the Bible (1870) and The Darwins: A Domestic Radical Romance (1879), among others. For more information on Slenker, see her biographical sketch in Appletons' Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1600–1889, ed. James Grant Wilson and John Fiske (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888), 5:549.


  • 1. A letter from Elmina Slenker is mentioned in Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden. See the entry for Sunday, August 5, 1888. It may be this letter. [back]
  • 2. With this letter, Elmina Slenker enclosed a circular letter advertising her children's book Science in Story. She also enclosed two newspaper clippings in which she quotes from Leaves of Grass: "'Rosa, the Educating Mother' by Prof. H. M. Cottinger, A. M." and "Little Lessons for Little Folks." [back]
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