The Passion of Perfection

Gertrude Hitz Burton’s Modern Victorian Life

The Passion of Perfection deftly chronicles the life of pioneering activist Gertrude Hitz Burton. Vail’s biography recounts her great-grandmother’s brief but extraordinary experience (1861-1896) in the public sphere as a pioneering feminist sex educator and advocate for women’s rights. Gertrude’s professional stature and her tragic personal journey― and her early death from tuberculosis, at age 35―came to light in a trove of family diaries, correspondence, and photographs. The Passion of Perfection was selected as a 2017 Maine Literary Awards finalist for Non-fiction. (Read the review in the Portland Sunday Telegram.)

View a sample of The Passion of Perfection HERE.


Endorsements for The Passion of Perfection

June Vail begins her informative, sprightly new biography, The Passion of Perfection: Gertrude Hitz Burton’s Modern Victorian Life, with a quote from George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch suitable to Burton’s singular life: “The effect of her being on those around her was incalculable diffusive; for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts.” Vail …hits all the right notes, giving her subject a full-bodied life story and vivid and important historical context.

―William David Barry, Portland Sunday Telegram, October 21, 2018


…this lively, deftly written biography illuminates fascinating, often overlooked connections among 19th century notables.

―Libby Bischof, author of Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland 1900-1940


June Vail gives us a nuanced portrait of a young woman negotiating the late 19th century…Gertrude Hitz Burton’s journey feels both strikingly modern and entirely distinct from our own time, and Vail records it in a beautiful, compelling way.

―Jane Brox, author of Silence


Some readers’ comments on The Passion of Perfection:

Laura Shapiro, New York City:

—it is an incredibly fascinating story…and I just can’t believe all the connections with everybody and every place and every idea we’ve ever heard of in the late nineteenth century. Your research must have been the most fun in the world!

Beth Borgerhoff, Mt. Vernon, Maine:

First and foremost, at the end of the book I felt as if I had lost a friend – I was bereft!…There is a beautiful restraint in your style which seems to match perfectly the nature of Gertrude’s passion — no overstatement, no hyperbole. Just depth….

Helen Cafferty, Brunswick, Maine:

…I liked your restraint that allowed Gertrude’s voice be the main expressive force and how you provided the context for understanding her while leaving some puzzles tantalizing and unsolved.

John Gibbon, Cleveland, Ohio:

It not only is a good tale with all the suspense of a good novel, but I found the life issues she dealt with to be very relevant to me in trying to deal with today’s world and my present stage of life.

Jill Snyder, Brunswick, Maine:

I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading your latest book. As I read I discovered connection after connection to my own life. …

I was amazed at your depth of research that helped me understand the issues facing Victorian women of the late 1800’s — ironically, still happening today! … The photographs were wonderful…

Carla Rensenbrink, Bowdoinham, Maine:

…Then you come to her rather tragic marriage and that awful pronouncement about her illness and foreshortened future. And the children turn out to be too much for her…Even the way her former life and her ideas about herself all come apart has plenty of contemporary echoes. Most women I know went through – heck are still going through – similar struggles.

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