The sad story of Annie Taylor, aka Queen of the Mist, featured in a recent episode of Radiolab. She was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on October 24, 1901, an incredible feat that should have won her fame and fortune – but unfortunately the public found that a 63-year-old woman, who emerged from her barrel proclaiming “Nobody ought ever to do that again”, didn’t quite fit with their image of a daredevil.
A widow who had fallen on hard times, poor Annie went to Niagara in desperation, in a last-ditch attempt to gain financial security. Instead she had to sit beside her barrel trying to sell her signature to an oblivious public, and finally died in poverty.
Whereas the second – guess what, male – person to go over Niagara Falls, Bobby Leach, made a career from lectures and tours boasting about his stunt. (Until he died by slipping on an orange peel, that is.)
This is an obvious WRONG that must be righted. I suggest that this should be Annie Taylor Day, to celebrate a brave and shockingly unappreciated woman, who was also sensible enough to point out that it was actually a really bad idea that should not be copied.