The Sin of Eve

Harriet Worden

On December 2, 1868, Harriot Worden wrote in her daily journal that Tirzah Miller submitted herself to criticism at the evening meeting.  Tirzah confessed that while she had “freed herself from special love long since, she herself was a tempter to others.”  Harriot sees something of herself in Tirzah.  She remarks in her journal, “Oh, my God, give me strength to see, conquer it and hate it. It is this that separates me from righteousness.”

We know from a close reading of Tirzah’s diary that she and Harriet Worden would later become rivals for the love of two men, Edward Inslee and Henry Hunter.  But at this moment, at least from Harriet’s perspective, they were sisters in sin.  Harriet’s explanation, and certainly Noyes’ belief, was that women were the tempters of men, enticing them to sin by desiring exclusive sexual relations.

Harriet traces this flawed character to the original woman, Eve.  It is hard to know whether Harriet held this same view of her sex in later life, as she continually challenged the patronizing attitude of Noyes and the elders of the Community towards the women’s ability to assume leadership roles.

She would later write sarcastically, “If it were right to envy, I should envy the men.  They are so wise and strong, and so confident in their wisdom and strength.  They form such great plans, and are able to talk about them in such a large, disinterested way, that their opinions pass for what they are worth each time.  But woman is such a creature pf feeling she can scarcely give her views entirely free from personalities, and hence her judgment is received doubtfully.”

Tirzah Miller

As for the cause of Tirzah’s confession, she is silent in her own diary for all of November and most of December 1868.  She did write about visits in the spring and summer by George Noyes, her uncle.  He confessed to her that they could not be lovers any longer “until I don’t trouble him in the least.”  Tirzah wrote that Georeg was “fascinated by me, so he was unable to see my faults.”  Tirzah will later have an unauthorized child with her uncle.  Tirzah may have been referring to her relationship with George Noyes or with a tendency on her part to enjoy being a much sought after sexual partner in the Community.  In the following years, she would write extensively about her temptress ways, seeking guidance from John Humphrey Noyes to rid herself of the sins of Eve, with varying success.

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