Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Addie Christiansen

Technical illustration shows early balloon des...Image via Wikipedia

Mrs. Addie Christiansen, age 22, died on August 22, 1898.

Mrs. Christiansen was a parachute performer.

That day, much to the delight of thousands who had gathered to watch, she had been performing on a trapeze that was attached to a hot air balloon above a resort at Jamaica Bay, near New York City.

Her husband was a balloonist but according to the news at the time, had tried to dissuade his young wife from such daredevil activities.


 Anyway, it was reported that she constantly disobeyed him and had actually, over time, become his rival.

Families loved to come to the shore of Jamaica Bay and watch the aerial escapades of the pretty young woman in her colourful bodice and tights.

 Addie often threw kisses to the children in the crowd below before she ended her show by leaping into the air and parachuting to the ground.

But the last kiss was thrown on that fateful day in 1898 when the parachute became entangled in her costume and she fell 200 feet to her death.

I came across Addie Christiansen's story last week in an 1898 newspaper that was being catalogued at the St. Catharines Museum.

As we poured over the short report I think our main question was, "What was she thinking?"

 Someone said, "Maybe it was better than being in the kitchen with eight screaming kids."

We laughed but the truth is that we don't often think of the lives of women of that era as being much more than 'kinder k├╝che kirche'.  (Home, children, church.)

However, the 'fin de cycle' was a time of great social change.

By 1893 women in New Zealand had won the right to vote and the movement was taking hold in other parts of the world.

It was also a time of economic struggle and the combination of hard times and liberation seems to have produced a number of unusual women.

A Niagara Falls story next time.

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Debra She Who Seeks said...

I think there have been unusual women in all eras but usually they would have been persecuted and condemned for their desire for different lives. That does tend to have a dampening effect. We're so lucky to live now!

The Episcopagan said...

Good point, Debra.