Religion: Scandal Revisited

One morning in 1840 in Grand Coteau, La., a young mother shooed her 2½-year-old son outside to play with his big Newfoundland dog. Somehow, tumbling about with the dog, the boy got too near a boiling sugar vat and fell in. He was 43 hours dying. In his mother's diary, his death and the long watch at his bedside are recorded in three stark words: "Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!"

The child's death was a bitter milepost in the life of an extraordinary woman—a life that began in a fashionable, upper-class Episcopal home in Philadelphia, ended...

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