The cover of The New York Times, October 25, 1901, read:
“WOMAN GOES OVER NIAGARA IN A BARREL
She Is Alive but Suffering Greatly from Shock
Plunges from the Horseshoe Cataract —
— Thousands View the Attempt —
“Don’t Try It,”’ She Advises Others.”
The headline spoke to a most unusual spectacle. A 63-year-old woman in a Victorian dress crammed her body into a barrel she had made and proceeded to tumble over Niagara Falls. Hurled 160 feet into a caldron of rocks and rapids, Annie Epson Taylor (1838-1921) would become Canada’s first “Queen of the Mist” and the first woman to go over Niagara Falls.
Today, tourists can venture into the same waters in a boat famously called, The Maid of the Mist. It’s view is nothing like the one several thousand people witnessed back in 1901. The crowd held their breath as Annie prepared for her fearless and foolhardy act.
When it was over, they marveled she lived to tell her story, especially since Annie had failed to show up as planned two days earlier.
But true to her plan, Annie’s barrel was set adrift at 4:05 p.m. as it headed for the center of the Niagara River.
Annie’s body remained upright for most of the smooth ride down the river and through the rapids, before passing over the Canadian side of the Horse Shoe Fall. In less than a minute, the barrel bobbed up at the base of the Falls.
Annie recounted her experience saying “I felt as though I were being suffocated but I was determined to be brave.” Like many of the WomanScape women featured each week, Annie did not let her fear get in the way of what she felt she had to do.
When the barrel floated toward the boat of men waiting to retrieve Annie, several men pried off the barrel top and Annie was able to climb out. After a brief walk along the shore, Annie stepped into a waiting carriage and was whisked off to the city.
Join us Wednesday to learn more about Annie and what forced her to make this bold move.