My Notorious Life

My Notorious Life

A Novel

Book - 2013
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Baker & Taylor
A tale based on the life of a controversial Victorian New York City midwife features plucky orphan Axie Muldoon, who recounts her apprenticeship and establishment of a thriving practice that is threatened by a censorious zealot.

& Taylor

An evocative tale based on the life of a controversial Victorian New York City midwife features plucky orphan Axie Muldoon, who recounts her apprenticeship and establishment of a thriving practice that is threatened by a censorious zealot. By the Emmy Award-winning author of Whitegirl. 100,000 first printing.

Simon and Schuster
“Exquisitely written and richly detailed, My Notorious Life is a marvel. Kate Manning’s rags-to-riches Dickensian saga brings to vivid life the world of nineteenth-century New York City, in all its pitiful squalor and glittering opulence. I loved this novel.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.

In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”

When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear.

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mystery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present.

Publisher: New York : Scribner, c2013
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781451698060
Branch Call Number: FIC MAN
Characteristics: vii, 438 p. ;,24 cm.


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Aug 21, 2017

As usual, historical novels that explore an unappreciated segment of society proves to be interesting reading. Mid-century New York was filled with immigrants, including women who found themselves with children they could not afford, and no legal way to protect themselves from bearing more children. When Axie Muldoon and her two siblings are sent on the orphan’s train to Illinois, she refuses to stay and returns to New York City. She finds her mother and watches her mother die delivering another child. Axie finds herself apprenticed to a midwife who also provides abortions. Going into business for herself, Axie and her husband find there’s an eager market among the wealthy for birth control and abortions. Of course, not only are abortions against the law but the selling of birth control raises the ire of the law. She is jailed…..but it isn’t the end of how she helps women.

ArapahoeAlicia Aug 09, 2016

A feminist ode to how women's lives have been tied to their fertility, this story is a dramatic page turner following Axie Muldoon from life as an orphan to life as a female physician/midwife in1800's New York. I couldn't put it down!

1955Mookie Jun 24, 2016

Loved this book. Read it in 5 days and it was hard to put down. It's easy to imagine that back in the day this book addressed serious issues that women had to deal with regarding poverty, pregnancy, finances and other issues. I felt for the women. This book was well written.

May 06, 2016

Well written - couldn't put it down.

Apr 26, 2016

This book was fascinating in that it took place in New York City during the Civil War and depicted the war from a new angle. You so seldom read about the immigrants at the time and the poverty. I had heard the term "rag picker" but did not understand what it meant to be one. This is a must read in that it deals with women and how they dealt with pregnancies.

Sep 03, 2015

Interesting historical fiction based on the actual life of midwife Madame Restell. Well-written exciting read!

Mar 17, 2015

Absolutely loved every page of this book. It kept me riveted .
After reading THE ORPHAN TRAIN, I could understand more about what the young girl was going through.

ArielaMigdal Dec 17, 2014

This is a fantastic historical yarn with plenty of mystery and all about midwives being hounded for providing abortion. Really great read!

cnmellen Oct 23, 2013

As a real life midwife who worked in New York City hospitals for more than two decades and delivered some 1,400 babies, I congratulate and thank author Manning from the bottom of my heart for her beautiful novel, "My Notorious Life." The complexities of being a midwife, as she put it, meaning weighing the patients' needs against the "morality," convention and law of the time, resonated deeply with me. These issues are as timely today as they were more than a century ago. The birth and abortion scenes in the book were vivid. But I am curious why the author did not describe the correct way to deliver a placenta or how the midwife would cleanse her hands before a procedure, since hemorrhage and infection, the most frequent causes of maternal mortality, could often be averted with proper hygiene and delivery of the afterbirth. These are just technical points. I loved the book and will recommend it to all my friends, both midwives and others.

Aug 22, 2013

Fabulous rags to riches/midwifery/NYC story set in the 1860s, with a fantastic main character.

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