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Ilyon Woo’s The Great Divorce is a dramatic, richly textured narrative history of early America’s most infamous divorce case. A young mother singlehandedly challenged her country’s notions of women’s rights, family, and marriage itselfall in a bid to win back her kidnapped children from the celibate, religious sect known as the Shakers. Pulling together the pieces of this saga from crumbled newspapers, Shaker diaries, and long-forgotten letters, Woo delivers the first full account of Eunice Chapman’s epic five-year struggle. A moving story about the power of a mother’s love, The Great Divorce is also a memorable portrait of a rousing challenge to the values of a young nation.
Ilyon Woo holds a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and the National Endowment for the humanities, among many others. She lives with her family in Manhattan.