I love eccentric female travellers, and have always been curious about the life of Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921), the first person to survive a trip down Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Story goes, she began adult life conventionally as a teacher, married and with a son. But her son died in infancy, her husband soon after. Destitution followed. She took on odd jobs, searched and failed to find work in Mexico City. She didn’t barrel the falls as a kook and adventurer. She was just a 63 year-old woman desperate to avoid the poorhouse in her later years – fame securing money, just like today. The journey down the falls was rough and over twenty minutes long. Surviving with a gash to her head, she told the press,
“I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.”
She made little money in public appearances, and was reduced to being snapped for souvenir pictures and working as a fortune teller near Niagara Falls.
She may have travelled her whole life, but it was out of sadness rather than gladness. Annie Edson Taylor’s story is not one of adventure, but instead a warning of the desperation people are reduced to when they are forced into a life without means.