In 1898, Ida May Beard (pictured) published My Own Life or, A Deserted Wife, the memoir of her failed marriage. For the next thirty-four years, she traveled thousands of miles by rail selling her book in thirty different states. She sold more than 90,000 copies, supported her two sons and a nephew with the profits, and attracted a fair amount of newspaper coverage, at first for the book, at the end for her eccentric dress and opinions.
Set during the rise of Winston-Salem as an industrial town, the Panic of 1893, and the coming of Jim Crow, her story is full of incident—a wicked stepmother and runaway stepsisters, tragic deaths from typhoid fever and cancer, the disastrous effects of economic depression, marital and child neglect and abuse, fraud, unexpected kindness, persistence in the face of adversity, and the intercession of friendly ghosts.
My annotated edition will include all of Ida’s known writings (other than The Mississippi Lawyer, already available in my annotated edition), appendices dealing with the riot of 1895 and the adventures of Ida’s runaway sisters, and biographical sketches of around 200 men and women mentioned by Ida or involved in some way in her story.