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I, Mary MacLane

Introduction by Emily Gould

Part of The Neversink Library

At nineteen, Mary MacLane was an international sensation, a prominent and provocative early feminist. Her first book, I Await the Devil’s Coming — published against her will as The Story of Mary MacLane, in 1902 — sold a hundred thousand copies, and detailed her frustration with life in backwoods Butte, Montana and her lust for the devil and Napoleon. It brought her money, fame and independence.

This follow-up, I, Mary MacLane was published fifteen years later. At thirty-four, MacLane is more worldly but no less outraged by the lack of opportunity for young women. She writes of affairs and friendships in New York and Boston, of World War One, of society life and her return to Butte, Montana, following illness. Just over a decade after I, Mary MacLane was published, its author died under mysterious circumstances in Chicago, having sunk from sensation to obscurity. This remains one of the last documents we have of her life.

MARY MACLANE was born on May 1st 1881 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her family moved to Minnesota while she was young, then again to Montana after the death of her father and remarriage of her mother. She published her first book, which she called I Await the Devil’s Coming — and which her publisher changed to The Story of Mary MacLane — in 1902 at the age of nineteen. She used the money to move first to New York and then to Boston, before returning to Butte. She died under mysterious circumstances in 1929 — according to reports, she was found dead in a Chicago hotel room — at the age of 48, and her works fell almost immediately into obscurity.

EMILY GOULD is the author of And The Heart Says Whatever and the forthcoming novel Friendship. She is co-owner of Emily Books.

“Her first book was the first of the confessional diaries ever writ- ten in this country, and it was a sensation.” —New York Times

“One of the most fascinatingly self-involved personalities of the 20th century.” — The Age (2011)

“Mary MacLane comes off the page quivering with life. Moving.” — The London Times

“The first of the self-expressionists, and also the first of the Flappers.” — The Chicagoan

“I know of no other writer who can play upon words so magically. Mary MacLane is one of the few who actually knows how to write English. She senses the infinite resilience, the drunken exuber- ance, the magnificent power & delicacy of the language.” —H.L. Mencken

“A girl wonder.” —Harper’s Magazine

“A pioneering newswoman and later a silent-screen star, consid- ered the veritable spirit of the iconoclastic Twenties.” —Boston Globe

“She was an extraordinarily gifted girl. . . She had a natural gift for crisp and concise expression, a keen, undisciplined intelligence and the emotional sensibility of a true artist.” —New York Tribune

“A pioneering feminist. . . A sensation.” —Feminist Bookstore News

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