Dangerous to Know: Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic

Dangerous to Know: Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic

Dangerous to Know: Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic

Dangerous to Know: Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic

Synopsis

Dangerous to Know Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic Susan Branson "A rich, detailed account of an illustrative set of crimes and of the fine grain of the emergence of the penny press out of sentimental culture. Branson is to be commended for her scholarly rigor and sophisticated narrative technique."--"Journal of American History" "Branson brings us an account of sex and violence in an era marked by political unrest, social instability, and economic uncertainty... and] urges us to rethink simplistic ideas about gender dynamics and the relative power (and powerlessness) of women at the time."--"Journal of the Early Republic" "A fascinating story that sheds light on gender roles in post-Revolutionary America. Most studies of women in this period almost necessarily focus on the elite. "Dangerous to Know" goes a few steps lower on the social ladder, allowing us to glimpse the lives of women who, while their values were 'middle class, ' had suffered significant downward mobility. As Branson so engagingly shows, these were women who deliberately violated gender conventions even as they strove to retain a veneer of respectability."--Sheila Skemp, University of Mississippi In 1823, the "History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson" rattled Philadelphia society and became one of the most scandalous, and eagerly read, memoirs of the age. This tale of a woman who tried to rescue her lover from the gallows and attempted to kidnap the governor of Pennsylvania tantalized its audience with illicit love, betrayal, and murder. Carson's ghostwriter, Mary Clarke, was no less daring. Clarke pursued dangerous associations and wrote scandalous exposes based on her own and others' experiences. She immersed herself in the world of criminals and disreputable actors, using her acquaintance with this demimonde to shape a career as a sensationalist writer. In "Dangerous to Know," Susan Branson follows the fascinating lives of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke, offering an engaging study of gender and class in the early nineteenth century. According to Branson, episodes in both women's lives illustrate their struggles within a society that constrained women's activities and ambitions. She argues that both women simultaneously tried to conform to and manipulate the dominant sexual, economic, and social ideologies of the time. In their own lives and through their writing, the pair challenged conventions prescribed by these ideologies to further their own ends and redefine what was possible for women in early American public life. Susan Branson is Associate Professor of American Studies at Syracuse University and the author of "These Fiery Frenchified Dames: Women and Political Culture in Early National Philadelphia," also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. 2008 200 pages 6 x 9 8 illus. ISBN 978-0-8122-4088-7 Cloth $55.00s 36.00 ISBN 978-0-8122-2187-9 Paper $19.95s 13.00 ISBN 978-0-8122-0142-0 Ebook $19.95s 13.00 World Rights American History, Women's/Gender Studies Short copy: This tale of kidnapping, betrayal, and murder follows the lives of two women on the margins of early nineteenth-century society, showing how they manipulated conventions to further their own ends while redefining what was possible for women in early American public life."

Excerpt

In the early spring of 1822 two women, just released from Philadelphia’s Walnut Street prison on a robbery charge, hailed a passing carriage. They drove from boardinghouse to boardinghouse throughout the city. Though the women had sufficient money to rent a room, they were denied admittance everywhere. in a final attempt to find lodging for his passengers, the coachman took them to a brothel. But even the madam of a house of prostitution refused them entry. the worried coachman declared, “They must be a pair of she devils when even a brothel refused them admittance.” Finally, someone did agree to take the infamous Ann Carson and her companion, Mrs. Stoops: Captain Parrish, who ran a gambling house on South Third Street. Even there, Carson was admitted only because Parrish cared more for her money than for his reputation; she and the more affluent Mrs. Stoops paid for a week’s lodging in advance, ordered oysters and punch, and conspicuously displayed their cash. Shortly after this episode, Ann Carson contacted Mary Clarke, a respectable woman who earned her living by her pen. She asked Clarke to ghostwrite her autobiography. Clarke not only agreed to write Carson’s book, she also invited Ann Carson to live in her home. Seven months later, The History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson rattled Philadelphia society and became one of the most scandalous, and eagerly read, memoirs of the age. This gripping yarn told the story of a woman who tried to rescue her lover from the gallows (by blowing up the Walnut Street prison, if necessary), attempted to kidnap the governor of Pennsylvania, and chose a life of crime over one of genteel poverty. It entertained readers with accounts of love, murder, and criminal daring.

Dangerous to Know is a paired history of Carson and Clarke. An intertwined biography relates episodes in each woman’s life that highlight the strategies these women used to succeed in a society that constrained women’s activities and ambitions.

Ann Baker was married at age fifteen because her parents were too impoverished to keep her. For twelve years, she led a tumultuous life with John Carson, an irresponsible sea captain whose unreliable income forced . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.