Malkin Lecture Series: Zoe Norris, Gilded Age Journalist and Homeless Rights Advocate
Zoe Anderson Norris (1860–1914), although little remembered today, was a foremother of modern-day social-justice advocates and confessional bloggers baring souls in print. In millions of published words of fiction and journalism—including in her own bimonthly magazine, The East Side (1909-1914)—she documented desperate immigrant poverty from her “literary sanctum” on East 15th Street and called for the world to heed and help.
Zoe (as everyone knew her) sometimes worked undercover, exposing issues that continue to resonate. She pleaded for government reforms while documenting corrupt policemen hassling immigrant street peddlers, overflowing trash cans spreading typhoid in mucky streets, sex workers pleading for help escaping from traffickers, charities splurging on their own expense accounts, and abusive men going unpunished. A Kentucky-born longtime Manhattanite, known as a “Queen of Bohemia,” Zoe also founded the Ragged Edge Klub, which met for weekly dinners combining activism and dancing. She handed out aristocratic titles to Ragged Edgers, such as Lady Betty Rogers of the Bronx and Baron Bernhardt of Hoboken. A few days after completing the last issue of The East Side, which described her recent dream that she would die soon, she suffered fatal heart failure—and her prediction made headlines in newspapers nationwide.
Venue: Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Ave.
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