Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blessed With a Genius for Publicity

In case you didn't catch the book review in this weekend's Pursuit section of the WSJ on "Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America," pickup a copy (not available online yet). The reason is because it talks about someone you may never have heard of (I hadn't!) yet quite possibly she was responsible for starting the women's movement: Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Here's what was so striking about her:
She was a brave transgressor of gender norms.

True, 50 years before Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," McPherson cast aside her apron (and rid herself of a pesky second husband) to pursue her calling. "God, she believed, wanted her to exchange domestic life for the pulpit," Mr. Sutton writes. But she also deployed traditional feminine wiles, exploiting personal details to win public approval. Broadcasting live from her nuptial boudoir just a day after marrying her third husband, for example, she treated radio listeners to the sound of their enthusiastic kisses. When the marriage failed, she churned out "sacred operas" whose lyrics read like lachrymose sympathy cards: "Do you live in a castle of broken dreams, / Where Giant despair and his dark horde teems?"

McPherson's life story tells us less about flouting gender norms than about navigating celebrity's treacherous terrain.
She was way ahead of her time and talk about pure entrepreneurship in its highest form. More can be found about Aimee here, here and here. Photo gallery is here. Fascinating person. By the way, that's her pictured at 51 years old.

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