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Barreling over Niagara Falls | Darn Wright

Annie Edson Taylor was first woman to attempt it – and come out alive


Last updated 3/2/2022 at 11:10am

Throughout history, what were women doing?

Due to the strong push by women, this question became front and center and to explore this passed-over history. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week.

That week’s focus has now become the center of attention during the full month of March. One woman in particular, although she came from the bottom of the barrel, made a splash that the news media had a barrow of fun with.

Throughout the century, women were pushed back from accomplishing their goals, but even with those legal, religious teachings, cultural mores that limited women from developing, some used their barrel of tricks to reach their goals.

An example was Annie Edson Taylor. Annie came into the Auburn, New York, world on Oct. 24, 1838. She had a horrible history of struggling through loved ones’ deaths.

Her dear father died when she was 12. Her only son died in infancy, her husband, David Taylor, gave his last breath in the Civil War, which caused her to become one of the thousands of Blue and Gary Gold Star widows.

Annie, while going through the arduous bereavement process, knew to survive she had to get a job.

After scraping here and there, Taylor finally received an education that would help her get “a woman’s job.” She passed a four-year honors training course and became a schoolteacher. With this “degree,” Annie pushed herself to get out into the hard-hearted world to find a job.

Her search took her away from her New York and, in due course, she found herself in Bay City, Michigan, where she hoped to be a dance instructor.

But she found there was no dance schooling available. Being a daredevil, Taylor opened her own studio. But financially things were not working out for her.

In 1900, she again packed up, this time she headed for the cold and windy weather of Sault Ste. Marie in Canada.

She had dreams of teaching her beloved music classes. But she didn’t work out. Taylor packed her suitcases and headed for San Antonio. Predictably, her roots didn’t take there either, so she and a friend headed to Mexico City in hopes of finding some work.

This was, yet, another unsuccessful adventure, and Taylor returned to Bay City.

Her beloved New York, especially the Niagara Falls area, kept calling her. Annie felt, in her 63-year-old-bones, “The Falls” would be a barrel of fun and a place to finally develop a dependable financial way of life.

Her choice of financial stability was to be the first person to successfully ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

On Oct. 24, 1901, Taylor place herself, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow, at the bottom of her life-or-death chamber.

“After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to ... air into the barrel ... and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore,” read one report.

The lake currents carried the barrel over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. After a short, but long 20 minutes, rescuers discovered Taylor alive, but with a large amorphous gash in her head

After her turbulent, terrifying, topsy-turvy and bone-rattling journey, Taylor 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 falls.”

In reference to her goal of economic stability, she earned a little money speaking, posing for photographs with tourists at her falls souvenir shop, income from her memoir, working as a clairvoyant, and providing magnetic therapeutic treatments.

Her manager ran away with her barrel. To find it, most of her savings went towards trying to track him down and to retrieve the historic barrel. It was eventually located in Chicago, but it permanently disappeared some time later.

At age 82 Anna Edson Taylor died April 29, 1921, and is now interred in the “Stunter’s Rest” section of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

“The Queen of Mist” was the first person to live afterward barreling over the Niagara Falls, and by doing so, Taylor opened the floodgates, which lead others to have their barrel of fun tumbling in unison with 75,750 gallons of water, per second, down the Horseshoe Falls section of the Niagara Falls.

Darn right, Anna Edson Taylor was scooped from the bottom of the barrel and, as this was happening, her name began flowing into the history books of great women.


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