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Letters From An American Utopia

by Christopher Clark, Ed.

Thanks to the generosity of UMass Press and Historic Northampton, Levellers Press is pleased to be able to issue this foundational work in an affordable paperback edition.

In 1842, a group of radical abolitionists and social reformers established the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community in western Massachusetts organized around a collectively owned and operated silk mill. Members sought to challenge the prevailing social attitudes of their day by creating a society in which “the rights of all are equal without distinction of sex, color or condition, sect or religion.”

This volume brings together a remarkable set of seventy-five letters written by the members of the Stetson family, who belonged to the Association for almost three years. Discovered recently by a family descendant, the correspondence documents the thoughts and experiences of ordinary people struggling to uphold common ideals in demanding circumstances.

“The newly discovered Stetson letters answer a historians prayer. What a joy to look over the family’s shoulders into the everyday life of the Northampton Association! For the first time we can see Sojourner Truth as a flesh-and-blood person enmeshed in her own family and the Association’s activities, not in retrospect, but, as it were, in real time.”
—Nell Irvin Painter, author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol