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The Wickedest Woman In New York

On this episode, poet Abby Minor discusses her long poem "Once in a Black Silk Gown: A Film Noir" from her book "As I Said: A Dissent" published by Ricochet Editions.

Through historical archives and interviews, Minor explores the complex story of Ann Lohman, the fierce Victorian era reproductive services provider for the women of New York.

Madame Restell as drawn in the National Police Gazette, 1847

Known in the press as the "wickedest woman in New York," Lohman, who practiced under the pseudonym Madame Restell, grew in both personal wealth and infamy. Eventually abortion was even referred to as "Restellism" in the press and in polite company.

In the late 1870s, she was eventually arrested through a ruse by anti-vice political figure Anthony Comstock. Rather than face trial and incarceration, Lohman committed suicide in her 5th Avenue apartment and Comstock reportedly responded to this news with “A bloody ending to a bloody life.”

Minor writes:

"(No Music, February 1878): Comstock came posing
as a customer she asked him
to come back & sold him a box
of pills he produced
a warrant for her arrest she invited
him to ride with her
in her carriage down
to the station & and so together rode"

In order to not over-simplify Lohman's life as a historical figure, Minor attempts to layer her long poem within both an historical and contemporary context. While completing her research in the New York Historical Society Library, the poet ponders:

Author, poet and activist Abby Minor
Jennifer Anne Tucker
Author, poet and activist Abby Minor

"And have I? And have I
yet? And have I written
a burn upon my secret brain? My memory
is aflame.
Was I
an angel? Was I
a fiend? Was I infamous, &
luminous? "

Abby Minor lives in the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania, where she works on poems, essays, drawings, and projects exploring reproductive politics.

Multi-instrumentalist Miranda Ceara Rix-Hayes
Multi-instrumentalist Miranda Ceara Rix-Hayes

Granddaughter of Appalachian tinkerers and Yiddish-speaking New Yorkers, she teaches poetry in her region’s low-income nursing homes; serves on the board of the internationally active nonprofit Abortion Conversation Projects; and directs an arts education collective called Ridgelines Language Arts.

Listen to "Once in a Black Silk Gown" by Miranda Ceara, with sound engineering by D'Arcy Rix-Hayes
Listen to "Ways Away" by Jessica Fuller

Her first book is "As I Said: A Dissent," a collection of long documentary poems concerning abortion, justice, and citizenship in her personal matriline and in U.S. history.

Music for this episode was written and performed by Miranda Ceara Rix-Hayes. A multi-instrumentalist, she is a vivacious performer, composer and musician. Miranda Ceara has toured throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and the UK with various projects. Currently based in Toronto, she performs as a member of the duet Po'Boy Jefferys & Calamity Jane, described as country blues, jazz and vaudevillian hokum.

Additional music was written and performed by Arkansan native Jessica Fuller.

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Executive Producer and Host: J. Bradley Minnick
Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit
Sound Mix and Mastering: Joseph Fuller, Orchestra of One

This episode is a production of Living The Dream Media, Inc.