The One Woman (1903) by Thomas Dixon Jr. ⭐
I didn’t like this book much, though it was a best seller in its time. It took me 180 pages out of the 350 to even be interested in the story. If this author’s name sounds familiar, this is the white supremacist jerk who wrote The Clansman, which led to the film The Birth of a Nation.
It’s about a socialist preacher at the turn of the century who is married and has two children, ages seven and two. He preaches his radical views at a traditional church, but he dreams of building a church that he will call “The Temple of Man”. His views seem like a combination of hippie-anarchist-cult sort. Preacher Frank has an unlikely best friend, Mark Overman, 45, an atheist millionaire banker on Wall Street with one eye and a rugged appearance who shuns women.
Anyway, let’s go back.
The first part lays down heavily Frank’s views with long, drawn out sermons and politics, and the only reason I kept reading it is my vow to read all my antique books.
Frank Gordon is a preacher with socialistic views who creates a huge following with his unconventional and blasphemous ideas. He wants to create a megachurch where he is the head, and tries to raise money, a million dollars (in 1903), to build this Temple. Kate Ransom, a parishioner with a fortune, has been assisting Frank Gordon in all that he does in the church, and pledges the whole sum of money to build it.
He and his wife, Ruth, had been growing apart recently, and… you guessed it! Gordon and Ransom fall in love. He leaves his beautiful, loving, sweet, wife and two children for this Kate Ransom. He marries Kate, and they are happy for a time.
He talks his best friend Overman into meeting Kate, although Overman is emphatic about not having women in his presence. Finally they meet, and after a time, you guessed it again, now Kate and Overman fall in love. All this time Frank has been stressing his views about a wife being an equal and everyone being free to do what they want.
Well, apparently this was all talk, because he becomes a super monster, which is really not in keeping with his views or character. You can say that he does not practice what he preaches. When it is announced to him that Kate and Overman are in love, he locks Overman in a room and has a dagger fight, in which he kills his best friend of many years.
Frank is physically wounded, and he comes crawling back to his first wife, who has been hanging on to the hope and love for him all this time. She takes him back with open arms, calls the doctor, and she nurses him and he is better in two days. Eventually, the cops found him, which wasn’t hard, because he was home, and he is then put on trial for murder. He is found guilty, and is put in jail and sentenced to death.
During the time they were apart, Ruth’s lawyer, who was also her sweetheart before she met Frank, has been trying to win her. He becomes Governor, but Ruth still hangs on to her love for Frank, and still maintains that he is her husband, although they are divorced in reality.
After three years in Sing Sing, Ruth finally convinces her friend to pardon him, who has tried not to use his power to interfere all this time, as he was a candidate for presidency. At the very last hour, the governor tries to call the warden to stop the execution and fails to reach him by phone. He hurries by express to get to the prison in time, and just as the warden was about to flip the switch, he stops him.
Oh, and for most of this time, he had not seen his children. It was three years after he married Kate before he accidentally ran into them on a train for Florida, which, by the way, crashes. No one was hurt badly, but Kate would have died, had Ruth not saved her from the wreckage, further displaying the wonderful character that is the wife he left.
This would have gotten no stars had there not been the soap opera-like story. Some elements are based on fact, as Thomas Dixon Jr. himself was a preacher, (in the Baptist denomination), did have a huge following, and actually did plan to make his own temple, though it never panned out, despite a matching grant of $500,000 from John D. Rockefeller.
This book was also adapted into a play in 1906, in which D. W. Griffith acted.