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Category Archives: Wild women

The Pittsfield [Mass.] Sun, October 8, 1868. Accidental poetry like this was, of course, a byproduct of the telegraph. And this is recognizably the sort of thing that Thoreau was anticipating when he famously wrote in 1854 that “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate… We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.” Thoreau was a joyless old poop. I’ll take stuff like this over a dreary proto-Unabomber tract like Walden Pond any day of the year. It lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it addeth to the gaiety of nations.

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Haverhill Daily Evening Bulletin, March 22, 1889. Odd, skeletal bit of reportage. Did the fact that the combatants were Japanese substitute for a motive behind the fracas?

(Chicago) Daily Inter-Ocean, March 12, 1896. For no other pie did people behave this way.

pockBoston Daily Journal. December 5, 1889. Tom Stoppard and Richard Powers are collaborating on an operatic libretto encompassing these items. Johnny Greenwood is signed to write the score.

Oh, just kiddin’. But the longer I stare at these old newspapers, the more I am bewitched by the cumulative insanity and variety and intellectual free-fall of these deep stacks of randomly interesting nonsense.

They put me much in mind the work of Neil Postman, whose books The Disappearance of Childhood and Amusing Ourselves to Death seemed to me very profound when I read them in my 20s. The guy’s basic theme was that print imposed rationality, but video annihilated it. That, according to Mr. Postman, was because TV equaled vaudeville and vaudeville equaled chaos. Whereas print was inherently rational.

But that’s fundamentally utopian, i.e. stupid, because vaudeville is the default condition of the human mind, regardless of prevailing medium. Am I right? I got Shakespeare and Chaucer on my side here.

P.S. I see some boffins at a Harvardian thinktank are on my side too. I would have tidied up, avoir su.

AC 10 14 99 Atlanta Constitution, October 14, 1899. An inoffensive negro you say? Oh, the humanity!
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Chicago Tribune, 11 18 13Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1913. I mourn this lost Chicago, a city where a well-read, shotgun-wielding spinster lady could squat, farm and defend the boundaries of her river island for a decade before attracting the attention of the authorities. Read More »

needles and pinsNew York Tribune, March 14, 1849. Another Wild Woman story, but this one is treated with unusual caution and skepticism, despite the fact that it doesn’t involve superhuman jumping. Read More »

ioneLos Angeles Times, September 12, 1896. Well shut my mouth: here’s a wild woman who does manifest in mixed company. So let me advance another, I think safer, generalization: Wild Women skew distinctly toward the brunette end of the spectrum. Haven’t run across a blond one yet.

giantessSan Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 1894. My headline here plays off of the title and lyric of “The Giant of Illinois,” the mournful and mysterious but insuperably beautiful song by The Handsome Family (lately also covered by Andrew Bird).

A signature trait of the Wild Woman is that she rarely seems to manifest in mixed company. She appears to the men on some occasions, and to women and/or children on others, but not to all at once. I like the detail that this one wields a club rather than the usual knife. So much more bluntly phallic.

It’s odd that neither Forteans nor feminists have perpetuated this trope. Nor even that tiny overlapping body of Fortean feminists.

simon pureChicago Tribune, November 13, 1871. As I understand these things, Eve was at the peak of her nudity before the fall, but whatever. The point here is that your wild women tended to fall into one of two classes: ugly to the point that witnesses weren’t sure they were fully human, or, like this gal, veritable Rousseauian pin-ups. But always good jumpers, in either case. Read More »