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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

American history week- Mad Anne Bailey

It may surprise American readers that we Britons know a lot about your films and tv shows but very little about your history. I would like to learn more so from now until Friday all posts on this blog will be about American history. I'm using internet sources so if I make any mistakes please tell me.

Anne Bailey was born as Anne Hennis in Liverpool* in 1742 and emigrated to Virginia in 1761. It is likely that she went as an indentured servant. After her first husband Richard Trotter was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant* in 1774 she started dressing like a man and took up arms against the Native Americans. In 1788 she married her second husband John Bailey and lived in West Virginia. During a siege by Native Americans in 1791 the settlers ran out of gun powder. Anne Bailey saved them by riding a hundred miles for help and returning with powder on the third day. source

She was called Mad Anne because she did not behave in the way that women were expected to. The author of this 1856 United States Magazine article virtually deprives Anne of the right of being called a woman at all. I think this says a lot about nineteenth-century attitudes to women:

Imagine a short, thick-set, coarse and masculine figure, with a face bronzed by
exposure, and marked with the unmistakable outlines of care and passion, and you
will have a fair portaiture of Anna Bailey, or "Mad Ann, the Huntress," as she
was commonly called, for our traveler was a woman. A woman in nothing save sex,
however, for every instinct and feelng was masculine. She hunted, rode and
fought like a man, and, man like, she delighted in all the excitement and
adventure of border life.

In 1826 Anne Royall recorded her impressions after meeting Anne Bailey. Her opening comment 'This female is a Welch woman, and is now very old' suggests that Anne may have been from one of the many Welsh families that have settled in Liverpool, and therefore not English at all. She also implies that locals thought Anne Bailey had an unusual accent. Instead of 'an owl on an elm upon the bank of Elk river' she would say 'the howl upon the helm on the bank of the helk.' Anne Bailey would have spent most of her life in America by this point so there is no telling where she picked it up.

*Read this article for debate about whether or not this was the first battle of the American revolution.
** This poem by a twentieth-century poet wrongly describes her as a Londoner.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you explain "indentured servant" please?

4:27 pm  
Blogger Mapo said...

An indentured servant commits to work for someone for X number of years. Perhaps in Anne's case in exchange for passage to America.

9:45 am  

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