This is a small selection from thousands of items of present and past press coverage of Mary MacLane. Due to the volume of writing on this author it is by necessity somewhat scattershot but gives a sense of the amplitude of response. A selection of foreign language coverage is in preparation, and a full collection in all languages will be provided in the forthcoming study of published reactions to Mary MacLane, Mary in the Press: Miss MacLane and Her Fame and will be put in context in the forthcoming biography/literary analysis A Quite Unusual Intensity of Life: The Lives, Worlds, and Works of Mary MacLane.
n.b.: "The Story of Mary MacLane" was the publisher's title for MacLane's first book, which was titled in manuscript "I Await the Devil's Coming"; the manuscript title appears as a subtitle ("originally published as...") in Tender Darkness: A Mary MacLane Anthology (1993) and is given as the book's title in the Melville House reissue (2013) and subsequent reissues and translations.
Riveting. - Michele Filgate, New Hampshire Public Radio
Beyond the vivid language and eccentric imagination displayed in MacLane’s diaries, her writing reminds us of the power of personal narrative, honestly told. - Hope Reese, The Atlantic
She had a short but fiery life of writing and misadventure, and her writing was a template for the confessional memoirs that have become ubiquitous. - The New Yorker
One of the most fascinatingly self-involved personalities of the 20th century. - The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
The critical condemnation of MacLane was so virulent, so extreme, so paternalistic and condescending that it seems like an obvious relic of a bygone era; her book's scandalousness and the outsize reaction to it that briefly made her a household name all seem at first glance obviously to belong to another time in history. But the more closely I examined the story surrounding The Story of Mary MacLane, the more I saw echoes of it around the publication of more contemporary memoirs by women like Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation), Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed), and Chris Kraus (I Love Dick), all of whom have been both admired for their honesty and torn apart for what critics call their "narcissism." - It's tempting to suspect that the critics who profess to be bored by MacLane are much more condescending and vehement than they'd be if boringness were really her sin. Clearly, there was something deeply distressing to the "respectable" men and women, the gatekeepers of professional culture-making, about the obsessive self-scrutiny displayed in MacLane's work. Namely, what that self - scrutiny revealed: a woman who genuinely admired herself, who found her own thoughts interesting. - "In Love with Herself: The legacy of tireless memoirist Mary MacLane" - by Emily Gould - Bitch Magazine
A girl wonder. - Harper’s Magazine, two-page excerpt spread (1994)
A pioneering feminist ... A sensation. - Feminist Bookstore News (1994)
Startling oft in its denunciatory language of all things held sacred; intensely real and pathetically crude is the weird story that Mary MacLane of Butte has written, and which bears the title: "The Story of Mary MacLane."
Crude and contradictory as the book is; barbaric as is most of its lines, yet it is all that [its publisher] Herbert S. Stone [& Co.] of Chicago has claimed for it: "The work of insanity or genius." Unquestionably it will come in for commendatory notices and it will be equally condemned. Sentimentalists will see in it the cry of a young girl for something better than her life has thus far evolved and will picture her mental sufferings as she has painted them in her efforts to secure happiness. Cold, unreasoning critics will laugh at the book. They will say that it is the vaporings of an unusually bright mind, shut into a narrow sphere.
Pity and Levity Are Provoked
All criticisms of the book will be correct. There are parts of it when she is crying for happiness that is as the cry of a prisoner beating the grating of his cell until the blood streams from the wounds in his longing for freedom; of a doomed man who sees the sun rise and knows that within a few hours men will come in and bind him and take him out and kill him, and that no earthly power will save him. Then again the extravagancies, the vagaries are laughable. Undoubtedly the literary critics of the East will say that it is a remarkable book, but they will also probably view the crudeness of it more thoroughly than its brilliancy.
Mary MacLane has disclosed in her book the morbidness of a Chatterton. In her fantastic and picturesque declarations that she is waiting for the devil, which runs as a current throughout the book, one is forced to believe that she isn’t really asking for Satan, but for some man.
Quaint as Elbert Hubbard
Hubbard is no more quaint in his expressions and no more daring in his assertions than is this 19-year-old Butte girl. What Elbert Hubbard, however, writes of from experience, the girl has written from saturating from books her knowledge of the world together with that which has grown in a mind bright in some places and dark in others.
Roasts Butte to a Turn
Miss MacLane has scorched Butte in a score of places. She has ridiculed the town and the people and the surroundings like a fish-woman. It is this that will lead many Eastern critics to declare that it is her environment that is responsible for her remarkable extravagancies. It is not so. Had she been raised in New York, she would have cried against the stifling condition of the city; if raised on the plains, she would have railed at the level monotony of the expanses. Raised in the mountains she vents herself on the nakedness of the landscape.
There is a minute analysis of herself at the beginning, which rather prepares one for her statements. There is a cheerful statement also made in this opening part that she likes to scrub floors, which may help some struggling girl somewhere in this broad world.
But She Loves Miss Corbin
There seems to be only one person of whom Mary MacLane is fond, and that is Miss Corbin, who was her teacher in high school. Time and again, sometimes introducing her and sometimes bringing her in abruptly, Miss MacLane speaks of the goodness and gentleness of Miss Corbin. In all the waste of the book this is the only green spot disclosed.
Pagan Views of Marriage - She Wants Rough Marital Experience
Out of all the vagaries - trash, people will call it - in the book it is difficult to pick out the meat. She declares for instance that "few people give the devil his due in this world of hypocrites" and she declares that the devil will sometime come to her and ask her what he shall do for her. She says that she would tell him to "hurt me, burn me, consume me with hot love" and to "treat me brutally, cruelly," and this seems to be the trend of her idea of marital happiness.
As the book is in the form of a diary it is under dates that one looks for startling passages. It is under the date of February 3 that she scorches the population of Butte. The language is picturesque in the extreme, but it shows a minute acquaintance with the city and its people. There are other and frequent allusions to Butte, which, if believed by her readers, will give the impression that Butte is exceedingly crude; even cruder than her book.
Crude Spots in Spirited Writing
There is in the book admissions of slovenness, which she probably believes is metropolitan Bohemianism; there are reports of eating and sleeping and how she spends her time, bearing directly upon her life but all suggestive that she was then writing for the public. It is these glimpses that mars the book and makes the reader wish that an experienced copy reader had gone through her manuscript and a blue pencil. It has no important beating on the main thread and mars the force of her characterizations of herself.
Mary MacLane, a 19-year-old girl living in Butte, Mont. is credited with having made the most remarkable entrance on record into the uncertain field of literature. Although unheard of outside of her own town she succeeded in having a book accepted by publishers and printed, ready for sale within ten days after the manuscript was received.
The publishers who are to "bring out" this unusual young writer are H.S. Stone & Co., and there was no other consideration in the hurried acceptance and printing of her book except the originality of her story and the rather unnatural view of life held by the writer.
"The Story of Mary MacLane" - that is the simple title of the book - came into the office of Stone & Co., in manuscript on Saturday evening. It contained something like 75,000 words, and Melville E. Stone Jr., who passes upon the books to be brought out by the firm, looked at it with dubious eyes. "Same old story," he thought, but nevertheless he began reading it. This was the salvation of Mary MacLane. He become so fascinated with her story that he carried the bulky manuscript home with him, put in most of the night reading it, and the following Monday wired the young author that it would be accepted, stating terms. Miss MacLane’s affirmative reply was received on Wednesday, and by Thursday evening the book was in type and had been cast in proof sheet form.
Mary MacLane’s story is about herself. It is, in fact, a diary in which the life and innermost emotions of the young writer are set forth. She declares it her belief that she is a genius, and her plea is for opportunity to make herself known in the world. The story is startling in its originality, and is mildly sensational in the view the young writer takes of life in general and the unsympathetic environment she find in Butte.
Mr. Russell Pronounces It Unhealthy and Unwholesome and Says That Writings of Such a Character are Harmful
Librarian John R. Russell of the Butte Public Library will ask the board of trustees to exclude "The Story of Mary MacLane" from the library. Mr. Russell will declare that the language about marriage and virtue and the blasphemous statements in the book would be harmful to young persons, and that the trustees should do their share in the work of suppressing the book. So emphatic will be the protests of Mr. Russell against Mary MacLane’s book that it is believed that the trustees will abide by his decision as they have done once before.
When the Russian novel, "Fomagodyeef" [sic. - Gorky's 1899 novel Fomá Gordyéef] was issued by Scribner, a copy was bought for the Butte library. Attention was called to only one or two portions in the book, but they were sufficient for its exclusion from circulation in the library. "Mary MacLane’s book reeks with abominable language, every page of it, while the Russian novel has only a few passages," said Mr. Russell. It is believed that the exclusion of the MacLane book from the library will counteract the evil impression which people will gain of the city through reading the book. It will demonstrate that the book does not receive the indorsement of Butte people, and that the picture Miss MacLane has drawn of Butte and its citizens is false. I have read some of the passages from the book, and these alone are sufficient to earn its exclusion from every library in the United States. There are passages that rail at everything held sacred. The courtesan in Galena street has had her fingers burned, and she would write of her life of shame exactly as Mary MacLane has written. The only difference in the two books would be that the language of the courtesan would be coarse, while that of Mary MacLane is choice. We exclude some of Balzac’s works, the Decameron and other acknowledged classics from the library because of their character, but in a way, they can be no worse than ‘The Story of Mary MacLane’ and no more harmful.
MacLane’s Companions Fired With Ambition With Her Success
The book-writing craze has struck the girls of Butte. During the past week a number of them have started writing novels, while others are revolving the plots of their proposed novels in their minds and will soon get to work. Soon Eastern publishers will be receiving packages of manuscripts from Butte in such large numbers as perhaps to drive them to despair. If the girls all succeed in getting their books published, Butte will have more authoresses than you can shake a stick at.
All this is on account of the success which has attended the book written by Miss Mary MacLane, says the Anaconda Standard. It is known that there are eight young ladies who during the past week have actually begun writing books, and it is to be supposed that there are others who may be secretly contemplating the same thing. It is understood, however, that no attempt will be made by those young ladies to write in the same vein as Mary MacLane. On the contrary, they are for the most part writing novels. Two or three are to be historical novels. One is to be a story of the Crusades and another is to be a historical novel about early Montana and the vigilantes, with Colonel Sanders and some other characters portrayed. If these young ladies do not get married before they finish, up will go the price of ink and blank paper.
Chicago will contain the vivacious, as well as triste Miss Mary MacLane of Butte, Mont., during the first week in July. Miss Mary is also going to Boston and New York. Naturally, having, by the notice taken of her literary eruptions throughout the country, become famous, Miss Mary is good-natured enough to leave her mountain home and visit the provinces where a larger number and variety of people may see her. As the leading representative of the Marie Bashkirtseff literary style, she may meet with a cold reception in Boston, which is not very friendly to the tumultuously emotional and dramatic element of the Bashkirtseff style. There is no question that Mary MacLane of Butte has created a sensation by her outbursts of pessimism; her robust use of the American language, her sphinx-like aspect which would make a monkey serious, alternating with laughter which may be interpreted as the veriest irony, or as the articulation of a jubilant heart.
Now it is exceedingly probable that Mary MacLane’s book is but the preliminary movement of a literary career, determined upon some time ago. Mary MacLane has, doubtless, concealed about her person the manuscript of that long-looked-for "Great American Novel." Mary MacLane’s book, which has been so variously criticized, may be but the first note of an overture which will thrill the country and perhaps the world. That eccentric book may be only the sounding of the bell which means the raising of the curtain upon a new and brilliant literary career.
"Poor little Mary MacLane" of Butte is attracting more attention in Chicago than did Prince Henry of Prussia, the brother of the emperor.
The love-sick wind blows in from [Lake Michigan] and plays affectionately with the crinkly brown hair that shades her comely brow. But its touch is damp and chill and it awakens no responsive chord. In fact she shudders at its wanton approach. It is not the pure, wholesome breeze that blows down from her own mountains at home.
It is plain that Mary loves her Butte. When she wrote otherwise she did it under the impulsiveness of youth. Familiarity had bred a wee bit of contempt. She was piqued for the moment.
Now that she has gone forth in the world she finds it not as it was painted. Under the surface she sees its emptiness and insincerity. She wants to come back. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. Bend your footsteps hither, Mary. Let chemistry and golf go hang. English literature and composition, you need them not. Your style is pure and lofty. Macaulay himself might sit at your feet and learn his letters. Come back and put your feet on the bureau as of yore. Return to your Butte and your "good devil" and the naughty things you have said of us in girlish anger will be wiped from memory’s walls. Even your cuss words shall be as if they had never been written.
Whatever may be the value of her work as a literary piece, is of little moment. There are enough "literary" books that nobody reads. Books in correctly written language, with nothing but sound waves following the pronunciation of it, are flooding the book stores. Mary MacLane has given the reading public and the thinking people who have read her book something to talk about besides the weather, or a social dress parade. She uncovered a portion of the human anatomy and dissects and describes it, as she says, truthfully, and who is there with any desire to get at the truth about ourselves who can object? Publicity ought to be as good for the cure of social diseases, as for the trusts. Mystery, conservation, fetichism, and a fear of facts being known and considered in their full bearing on ourselves, encourage ignorance, breed deceit and turn back the wheels of progress. A few Mary MacLanes, from the weltering west, telling the truth about herself and her artificial relations with others like herself, do no harm. The heretic has always been under the ban but always carried the torch that led the people on to brighter paths.
"One For Mary" - Billings Gazette [Montana], July 1902
Missoulian: Radcliffe college has closed its doors in the face of Mary MacLane. This was no insult to Miss MacLane; rather an admission of the excessive stupidity which educated asses display upon the least provocation. Miss MacLane needs no more education except that which can be secured by travel and observation.
Former Winnipeg girl writes of her life and the critics lance her. Physician probes her peculiar case.
Her book has been severely criticized although it is conceded that some of her descriptive passages are exceptionally clever.
Dr. James MacKaye, of Norfolk, Neb., writes that she is not in good mental health. The doctor’s diagnosis follows: Max Nordau, in his "Degenerates," [sic. - Degeneration] gives some striking pictures of victims of egomania, which are prototypes of all that the psychiatrical phenomenon in Butte, Mon., proclaims herself to be. The doctor defines egomania as "an effect of faulty transmission by the sensory nerves, of obtuseness in the centers of perception, of aberration of instincts and a great predominance of organic sensations over representative consciousness." The incapability, as Darwin puts it, of adaptation to surroundings is the keynote of egomania. The Germans call it weltschmerz and the French fin-de-siecle. It is an undeveloped condition of protoplasmic cells in the brain.
In the present case it is a condition of defective development rather than worn-out withered or exhausted passions, where the "good body" has grown strong and robust, while the senses remain blunted and the capacity for gratification absent. This stunted development prevents a junction with environment, and hence the self-analysis and outcry. In Kraft[-]Ebbing’s "Psychopathia sexualis" are marked examples of this type. Happiness, enjoyment, sympathy are positive conditions, the expression of assertion of definite needs of the central organism seeking gratification.
The perplexing personality of Mary MacLane seems to have caused Book News to differ with itself in criticising her. The July number contains two separate estimates of the young author both printed as editorial and diametrically opposite in opinion. This is one way of getting out of a difficulty. The reports now current about Miss MacLane's journey eastward exhibit the same peculiar inconsistency. There seems to be something about this damsel which makes people see double.
Miss MacLane says that the East does not appreciate her, but we think she is mistaken. Life has been more lurid since her meteoric presence flashed upon us. She was a phantom of delight when first she gleamed upon our sight. The iris of existence took on a deeper crimson and the hues have not yet faded. Mary will remain sweet in our memories as kisses in hopeless fancy feigned. Our only regret is that out of the superabundance of an intelligent Eastern manhood, our brain workers and golfers and football heroes and all the fine figures of masculinity Mary has encountered since she left the West, there was none to attain her ideal. She returns heart whole and fancy free.
Perhaps in her home in the highlands there is some fond waiting heart to which hers will throb responsive. That this may be in store for thee, Mary, is our sincere petition, and as we are to have the charms of our Eastern manhood slighted so.
A pyrotechnic creature is Miss Mary Maclane, of Butte, Arizona [sic.], who is recording her impressions of fashionable life in a sensational Western sheet. This untrammelled and up-to-date young person has evidently been a close student of Marie Bashkirtscheff [sic.], as she has somewhat caught the style and intensity of that hysteric young woman, blending it with the methods of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. However, while it lasts, this Wild West girl is reaping a golden harvest, not due to her elegant diction, but rather to her forcible and rough-and-ready style of writing.
It is impossible to speak of women in America at the beginning of the twentieth century without making a place for Mary Mac Lane [sic.]. She was a girl from a modest family in Butte (Montana), and lived to the age of eighteen in that horrible city of miners without seeing anything but rough and uncouth workers, hideous wooden houses, and a desolate landscape covered in ore dust. Suddenly she began to write "The story of her life." [sic.] She expressed her contempt for her family and her social circles, as well as the depth and originality of her soul and her views on the universe. She shook the dust off of her shoes and onto Butte, and left to conquer America. The remarkable thoughts of her book abound in this manner: [quote]
The public jumped on the book, copies of which were sold by the tens of thousands. Newspapers across America have published portraits of Mary MacLane in her most characteristic poses. The New York press, at great cost, obtained her impressions of Newport, Wall Street, the Metropolitan [sic.], Coney Island, the Hudson, the streets of the metropolis, etc. etc. Here's her masterpiece born of a visit to Central Park: [quote]
Here is another masterpiece, born of a visit to Claremont, on the banks of the Hudson: [quote]
Sensible Americans will find too much importance attached to these details. But here we claim to note the facts. It is a fact that Mary MacLane's book was the big bestseller in 1902; that Mary Mac Lane, barely escaped from Butte, was the "lion of the season" at Chicago, Newport, and Boston, and that her "literature" brought her a fortune within a few months. At stores in Chicago and San Francisco, I saw girls, too poor to buy a volume for six francs, congregating at the edges of the bookstore to devour all the oracles of the "genius".
Is Mary MacLane a literary myth? It is put forth as an explanation of the Mary MacLane phenomenon that the sponsors of her first book were two young women professional writers of Chicago; that when the alleged Mary MacLane reached Boston, with the avowed intention of entering Radcliffe college, these two Chicago women furnished her with letters of introduction; the MacLane girl who reached Boston did not correspond with the photograph published of her before leaving Butte, Montana; she stayed in Boston studying chemistry under a tutor for a week or more and then was announced to have returned to Butte. Yet all this time "she has been living quietly in Boston," writing a new book.
Critics of ability who have seen the advance proofs are quite sure that the hand that writes this book is not the same one that penned Book No. 1.
It is possible that "Mary MacLane" is a literary syndicate; it is quite reasonable to suppose that the syndicate hired a girl from Butte to enact the role of the Montana girl whose audacity in making confessions almost equaled that of Rousseau.
She dared to think, and, unheralded, wrote a book that astonished the literary world. It had some imperfections, but they were all small and such as arise from one’s being born intellectually superior to the masses - the same trouble that Socrates had. The book, "The Story of Mary MacLane, by Herself," was one of the most unique and original books ever written in America - wonderful, especially in that it was written by a young girl - a kind of a May L. Collins - in the "sand and barrenness" of Montana, with nothing to help her but her "genius," that in her childish simplicity, she recognized just as a child would a pretty toy; and anybody but a dullard or a bigot who read any page in the book was bound to read it all. Her fool critics could not see that nobody but a pure woman would dare to speak of sexual matters at her age, as she did, while all intelligent people know that outside of professionals impure women affect to be prudes.
The New York Evening Journal - Hearst’s paper, a very advanced journal, certainly - has a big picture of Mary that represents her as a girlish beauty, younger by some years than when she wrote her first book, but far sadder than "patience on a monument smiling at grief." Her new book is called "My Friend Annabel Lee," and from samples of it given in the Journal, compares with her first book about like dish water would compare, as a grub, with Gus Jaubert’s burgoo. If Mary MacLane can be induced to cut loose from the book vampires that are now sucking her life blood and ally herself with the most advanced Infidel thought, she can become a power in the land. Otherwise she will probably run on for a year or two more and then sink into oblivion or suicide.
The editor of The Marinette Eagle-Star is getting to be a regular iconoclast, as shown by the following rude reference to the young woman from Butte who has already managed to achieve some little fame in literary circles. It says: "Mary MacLane will write another book after she has secured a husband who can supply new sensations for her." Just as though Mary was forced to depend on a husband to furnish her the necessary inspiration.
Montana was horrified at Mary McLane [sic.], when, really, it had cause to thank its lucky stars that the first gleam of creative art had lightened its heavy gloom of materialism and political autocracy.
[In The Story of Mary MacLane] there was individuality - a glimpse of the nude in mentality which promised much. Her Butte brochure comprises many disclosures, seldom heard outside the confines of close-cloistered confessional - the cry of a healthy body for that for which it was created - the hopes and aspirations of an innocent, free and unfettered soul, coupled with the latent instincts of the animal which is in us all - terse-told traits of human character which are usually not found on a cloth-bound what-not - all true to type, and without the mask which women, and men, wear. There was a diamond rare, though rough and uncut perhaps to those who could not see beneath the surface of the somewhat jagged gem.
Mary MacLane has again drawn aside the curtain of her life, for - she says she scarcely belongs to this modern world, and again this Butte authoress has a weird disregard of conventionalities and instead dwells on passionate humanness. She was just a school girl when she wrote "The Story of Many MacLane," and this frank human document startled the country and became so widely known that it was translated and the Butte school girl became known on another continent. Her book was a confession in the open and the theme was new. Since the publication of that soul-disclosing work there has been much speculation as to what Mary MacLane was doing and thinking. Now, the reading public has its answer.
Mary MacLane believes that the things she writes of are incidents of everybody's life, but not all are analytical enough to know, so she writes of the life just beneath the skin. "I, Mary MacLane," is what everybody feels in part, at least, told in vivid language, says the author.
There is even mystery on the title page, and those who have scented romance on which she is so profoundly silent wonder who M-T is. To M-T she dedicates the book with the words, "These live fruits from the withered garden."
When it became known that Mary MacLane had dropped the mystery surrounding her long enough to announce the coming publication of another book many prominent folk feared lest Miss MacLane turn her pen to them and were apprehensive lest she devote a chapter to them. She has not done this, but she has devoted a chapter to Butte.
She writes of millionaire members who spend most of their lives and dollars in New York and sees that Butte's soul is still the soul of the frontier mining camp.
Just as vividly she treats of men. To Mary MacLane men are like an assortment of neckties.
There are chapters dedicated to incidents and every-day happenings of everybody's life, dressed up in Mary MacLane's elusive style, and each time she disregards conventionalities. Those who liked her earlier book will find her chapter "Black-Browed Wednesdays" a bit of rare descriptive writing, rich in humor and typically American in its appeal. The public's mind may not take in everything between the covers of a magazine, but all grasp the trademark "No Metal Can Touch You," and she writes through the maze of familiar slogans that greets the magazine reader and amuses you, for she feels that she has every one on common ground.
So in her book of 90,000 words Mary MacLane seeks to get away from the conventional. Her abrupt Anglo-Saxon is sprinkled with colons because she thinks colons startle the reader and she writes of the despair, tastelessness and drabness of life in the same breath she speaks of life's fire, wonder and color.
Mary MacLane wrote this book to show in detail the woman inside of her and, although she frankly admits that she is singing of herself and the individual, she believes that in secret each man and woman is an egotist, not an egoist, but is afraid to come out in the open and say so, and so at the point in life where she is impatient and shoulder-shrugging she writes a me-book and seeks to be honest with herself. The book is Mary MacLane sobered by 12 years, but Mary MacLane just the same.
Publishers have found many who tried to imitate the style of this Butte authoress, but all have failed. And now Mary MacLane is with us again.
[I, Mary MacLane] confirms the old suspicion that Mary was never a real girl in skirts out in Montana but a mere fabrication of Chicago manufacture. Indeed, it is thought to be quite possible that she is no less masculine than the man who, as the garrulous "Marquise de Fontenoy" has for so long told American newspaper readers an endless story of the European nobility.
Literary fabrications and disguises are almost as old as the history of letters, some authors being more successful in their impostures of anonymous efforts than in their acknowledged works.
Query No. 34: What Has Become of Mary MacLane?
Can anyone tell me what has become of Mary MacLane, author of The Story of Mary MacLane? It made a great sensation when it was published in 1902. Is the author still alive?
- Lawrence J. Grant, St. Paul, Minn.
[For MacLane's response - her final published words - click here.
Breezy Little Stories Told Daily of The Gay White Way and Broadway Life - Gotham Gossip
New York, Sept. 11 - Thoughts and scenes while strolling around New York: cool nights do not stop the hatless brigade. Whatever became of Mary MacLane?
New York, Sept. 1 - Those men with big heads who wear peanut hats. A string of bobtailed polo ponies. John V.A. Weaver the poet. Upstairs dancing schools megaphoning music to sidewalk crowds. Silly women clinging to vanishing youth. Whatever became of Mary MacLane?
Poor Mary McLane! [sic.] Some of us remember what a thrill she gave us in the days of our youth with her defiance of law and custom and religion. Mary McLane [sic.] was the precursor of the present day flapper, but she was twenty or twenty-five years ahead of her time. There had not yet been a war - to provide the Revolt of Youth or the Post War Product. Mary voiced the inarticulate longing of millions of young women, who did not dare look beyond the horizon prescribed for them. Her gospel came too early, and when the fire of her flame had burned low, she had not the strength to raise and claim her place with the moderns, where she really belonged.
The death of Mary MacLane, a friendless recluse in an obscure hotel-room on the southern fringe of Chicago’s Black Belt, evoked some excellent sob-writing. Once more, after years of shabby oblivion, she rated as front-page stuff. And now that the last chapter of her frantic life has been written: now that she has gone back with eternally stilled lips to the home-town from which she fled with printed shrieks of rebellion, her case should be referred to a higher court than the press. The social philosopher would do well to consider Mary MacLane in her historical significance.
This errant daughter of literature, whose collected writings might easily be called Memoirs of My Libido, was the first of the self-expressionists, and also the first of the flappers. She represented the missing link between the shaved bare leg of the present and the bashful ankle of the past. She should be as important to any student of modern manners as the Java ape-man is to anthropologists. She throws the subject into perspective, for she broke loose upon a startled world as far back as 1902. The modern girl’s delight in shocking her ancestors and strutting her sex is as old as the first edition of The Story of Mary MacLane.
How did it happen that a revolution in manners, a transvaluation of values in the female code of behavior, started, or seemed to start, with an unruly young woman who couldn’t bear the sight of the tooth-brushes hanging up in the family bathroom at Butte, Montana? What seed fell upon that austere provincial soil to produce this amorous diarist with a narcissus complex? What mystic or glandular voices spoke to Mary, bidding her go forth into the world as the Jeanne d’Arc of the Warm Mammas?
The New Woman has had many famous prophets, from Susan B. Anthony to Henrik Ibsen, but the origin of her wild young sister, the New Female, has not yet been carefully traced. The career of Mary MacLane is Chapter I in The History of Flapperism, ready-made for any ambitious sociologist. This is a work that is crying to be written - yea, crying out loud.
Out of the West two decades ago, came a girl with a book. Let us be exact - she came from Butte, Montana, and her name was Mary MacLane. Her book, as well as herself, created a sensation. Perhaps simply because the book was the girl.
At any rate, so astounding were her observations, and so sincerely honest, that millions fairly gasped. You see, it is so unusual for a human being to be himself or herself. But Mary blurted out herself - and they called her a genius! She directly challenged the world to allow her to be herself and to express herself exactly as she thought. But the girl had a hard road to travel. The gay ones, little by little, withdrew and after a few years, she became very much alone. The other day they found her forever asleep in her poor lodging room in Chicago, dressed in her one "party dress" - Mary MacLane to the last!
The unconventional path is more rugged and hard to travel than the ruggedest ruggy rocks of the Rocky Mountains. And if you take that path, you are sure to be nursing bruised feet, a battered body, and a sick heart. Yet I, for one, cannot say that it is not a brave path to travel. At any rate, most of our pioneers, our discoverers, our real thinkers, choose this path as a matter of honesty. The equipment for such a route, however, must be character!
But to be yourself stamps you as a challenger in the face of the world at once.
The boy and girl arrive at maturity. Their entire systems throb with zest for life and a desire to know. Society puts its hands before its face and shrouds these pathetically wholesome beings into a maze of mystery. They try to free themselves - and all too often come to think that life itself is not worth the tackling. Right here is where society loses because of its stupidity. Leave the boy or girl alone. Let each think his or her way into life - and express that thought in his or her own way. To find oneself naturally is to discover the art of living.
We are not put into this world to learn everything. We can only hope to understand but a small part of what we see, hear, or experience. But from out of this we must mould something rich and satisfying. And when this is done, we have as a reward, the measure of happiness we deserve and for which we have striven. We may even challenge this happiness as too meager, but here philosophy enters, and if we take it as a friend, we may earn that finest of all planes of life - the ease of understanding. - George Matthew Adams
When Marie [Bashkirtseff] died on October 31, she left nearly a hundred white books. Distilled from this minute record of half a lifetime, a two-volume Journal was published in 1887 and instantly became an international best seller.
The Journal’s effect upon the imaginations of young women was profound. All over the world, girls sat down before mirrors and looked soulfully into their own eyes. "What am I?" they asked themselves. "Not the Me the world knows, but the Real, Suffering, Wonderful Me?" Diaries, which till then had been fairly factual, became psychological jam sessions.
By 1902, Marie has been dead for a generation but the pollen of her life story was still lazily adrift. Some of it had floated as far as Butte, Montana, of all places. And suddenly, everyone was talking about a sensational new book. Again, it was a diary, but this one covered only three months instead of twelve years and its author, far from being in her tomb, was a very healthy nineteen-year-old. It seemed she was just an ignorant Montana schoolgirl. But my dear-the things she said!
[At] its debut] it was the most talked-about book in America. Clergymen preached sermons about it. Reviewers called the author a genius and compared her freely with Charlotte Bronte.
It was a responsibility, being famous while you were still alive. Mary knew that people expected her to go on shocking them. She did her best, by becoming one of the first women to smoke cigarettes in public.
Presently, along came 1917, and people noticed on book counters a volume with an oddly familiar title: I, Mary MacLane. Some of them said vaguely, "Haven’t I read this thing before?" Others went so far as to open the book to the picture on the frontispiece. A woman, a sort of Theda Bara type, stared back at them from under one of the typical I’ve-just-washed-my-hair-and-I-can’t-do-a-thing-with-it coiffures of the period.
Somewhere, perhaps at this moment, a new Marie or Mary is communing with herself upon the virgin pages of a new diary. "This will be the naked truth-the Real Me," she is thinking. "However it hurts, I’ll leave nothing out. Of course, it will be much too frank to be published in my lifetime.
"But wait till Posterity gets hold of it. Boy, oh boy!"
Wordfire Festival - Watermark Theater presents its annual festival of works by solo performers.
Biography in brief, reader reactions past and present, some words on The Project and people involved.Learn
News/blog, site map, her silent film, editions in print, reviews past and present, photos/artwork from admirers, more.See
Support the Project by buying the authoritative Petrarca Press editions of works by and about Mary MacLane.Read
Our blog, F/book, Twitter, Tumblr, Insta., etc. plus email contact for those with questions or information on Mary MacLane.Connect
Join the Mary MacLane community on Facebook. Interact with other fans, get exclusive updates.Face
Follow @fuguewriter for updated Mary MacLane content, announcements, interviews, and more.Read
Add @fuguewriter for updated Mary MacLane content, announcements, interviews, and more.Tweet
Add @fuguewriter for tumblr Mary-MacLane-related content, announcements, fan art, and more.Tumble
Add @fuguewriter for Instagram Mary-MacLane-related content, announcements, fan photos, and more.Snap