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Dangerous to Know

Women, Crime, and Notoriety in the Early Republic

By Susan Branson

Publication Year: 2011

In 1823, the History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson rattled Philadelphia society and became one of the most scandalous, and eagerly read, memoirs of the age. This tale of a woman who tried to rescue her lover from the gallows and attempted to kidnap the governor of Pennsylvania tantalized its audience with illicit love, betrayal, and murder.

Carson's ghostwriter, Mary Clarke, was no less daring. Clarke pursued dangerous associations and wrote scandalous exposés based on her own and others' experiences. She immersed herself in the world of criminals and disreputable actors, using her acquaintance with this demimonde to shape a career as a sensationalist writer.

In Dangerous to Know, Susan Branson follows the fascinating lives of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke, offering an engaging study of gender and class in the early nineteenth century. According to Branson, episodes in both women's lives illustrate their struggles within a society that constrained women's activities and ambitions. She argues that both women simultaneously tried to conform to and manipulate the dominant sexual, economic, and social ideologies of the time. In their own lives and through their writing, the pair challenged conventions prescribed by these ideologies to further their own ends and redefine what was possible for women in early American public life.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

COVER

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pp. 1-3

TITLE

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p. 4-4

COPYRIGHT

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pp. 5-7

CONTENTS

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pp. 8-9

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PREFACE

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pp. ix-xi

In the early spring of 1822 two women, just released from Philadelphia's Walnut Street prison on a robbery charge, hailed a passing carriage. They drove from boardinghouse to boardinghouse throughout the city. Though the women ...

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1. TWO WORKING WOMEN

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pp. 1-23

Neither Mary Clarke nor Ann Carson expected to work outside the home, let alone become the sole breadwinner for her family. Necessity propelled them into the marketplace; illness, disability, and subsequent financial hardship ...

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2. MARRIAGE, MANHOOD, AND MURDER

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pp. 24-45

On the evening of January 20,1816, Ann Carson returned to her home on the corner of Second and Dock streets. She walked through the china shop on the first floor and went upstairs to the family parlor on the second floor above it. There, her ...

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3. THE "ENRAGED TYGRESS"

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pp. 46-68

On the evening of July 10, 1816, Pennsylvania Governor Simon Snyder received an urgent letter from his close friend, Philadelphia newspaper editor John Binns. The note must have alarmed Snyder considerably: "A desperate attempt ...

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4. COURTING NOTORIETY

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pp. 69-89

Between November 1816 and January 1822 Ann Carson did her best to stay out of the public eye as she continued to associate with Henry Willis and other criminals. Inevitably, this connection proved dangerous-twice she was arrested. On the ...

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5. AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN

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pp. 90-104

Ann Carson sought to make money from her own notoriety. Mary Clarke sought to make money from the notoriety of others. Nothing in Clarke's writing before 1822 indicated that she wanted to do anything other than play it safe ...

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6. BETRAYAL AND REVENGE

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pp. 105-134

Soon after Mary Clarke published the Hamblin expose, she began a revised and expanded version of Ann Carson's History. Having mastered the increasingly popular genre of scandal-mongering, Clarke chose to tell the rest of Carson's story. Sixteen years elapsed between ...

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AFTERWORD

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pp. 135-139

In 1838, Ann Carson had been dead for fourteen years. Mary Clarke was in her late fifties. The conclusion of Clarke's life is as obscure as the beginning. She revealed very little of her personal life in her writings, and no documents-census records, death ...

NOTES

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pp. 141-174

INDEX

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pp. 175-179

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. 181-182


E-ISBN-13: 9780812201420
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812221879

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011