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Annie Abbott "The Little Georgia Magnet" and the True Story of Dixie Haygood Paperback – May 19, 2010
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About the Author
Dr. Susan J. Harrington is a professor of information systems. She has published various history articles and books and over 25 scholarly articles. She has been researching Annie Abbott and Dixie Haygood for over 10 years. She, along with her husband Hugh T. Harrington, are the world’s experts on Dixie Haygood and Annie Abbott. She and her husband have published the seminal article on Annie Abbott in the “Georgia Historical Quarterly,” and their articles on Annie Abbott won “Best Article Series of 2003” in “The Linking Ring” magazine published by the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Hugh T. Harrington is an historian who has written many articles on American history and three books on the history of Milledgeville, Georgia: “Civil War Milledgeville: Tales from the Confederate Capital of Georgia,” “More Milledgeville Memories,” and “Remembering Milledgeville: Historic Tales from Georgia's Antebellum Capital.” His history work has appeared in “America’s Civil War,” “Georgia Backroads,” “Patriots of the American Revolution,” “The American Revolution,” “Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution,” “Carologue,” and “Muzzle Blasts,” among others. He is an expert on Sherlock Holmes and is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars with the investiture of “Wisteria Lodge.” His articles have appeared in many Sherlock Holmes publications.
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For the first time ever told, the real story of Dixie Haywood - the woman who became Annie Abbot, the Original Georgia Magnet. A magnifIcent biography of a Georgia country housewife who becomes world famous for her amazing powers that she displayed on the Vaudeville stage as well as the entanglement with all those other Annie's.
In the 1890's and 1900's, Annie Abbott, the stage name for tiny woman who played the The Georgia Magnet on stage could lift the largest boxer, topple over 1500 lbs of man flesh and knock a pile of big men out of a chair with a single finger. Interestingly enough, they couldn't lift her 98 lb body, or anyone else she gave her power to, through her touch.
Susan and Hugh Harrington do a fascinating job detailing the life of a Georgia housewife and how she transformed herself into a worldwide spiritual phenomenon; performing before the crowned heads of Eastern and Western Europe, as well as full tours of the U.S. Scientists and Doctors were convinced she either harnessed the natural power of electricity and animal magnetism, had some spiritual power, or used something like hypnosis or mesmerism. For many many years, no one knew just what power she harnessed.
Audiences went wild!
For a while, people believed she carried a galvanic battery on her person. You could simply touch her hand and feel the tingle of electrical current.
A group of women even stripped her down to the skin, made her take a bath and checked her physically for devices - they didn't find a single wire. They gave her handpicked clothes to wear, in case the electronics were sown inside. They checked beneath the stage for magnets, batteries, or any other devices. Nothing was found. After all this was done, she still retained all her capabilities.
Then came the age of the rabid spiritualist debunker. Harry Houdini was the most famous of these, though he and Annie never met. Annie never tried to extort money from grieving parents, widows, etc. This is probably why she was not a target for Harry. Like him, she too was an entertainer, but she was a target nonetheless.
This book is not just about a Dixie girl's rise to fame under unusual circumstances, it is about the rise of Vaudeville, the Spiritualist Movement, the pressure that fame brings. It is also the story of three women who toured under the name Annie Abbot all over the world as The Georgia Magnet, swearing they were each the REAL Georgia Magnet - borrowing from each other's itineraries and advertising, so it seemed they had all appeared globally on identical tours.
The other side of this story is the pressure of fame that results in loose morals, drug addiction, infidelity and spending sprees that corresponded with going on the road to perform, night after night for years that must have been quite substantial, even back in the moralistic and prudish days of the Victorians. Bed hopping, extra-marital affairs, bigamy, polygamy, little bastards everywhere, rampant drug use, child neglect, abandoned families all in the name of money and fame. Doesn't sound much different than today. Of course, the media followed along like sharks at the scene of massacre.
The only difference I believe is that the amount of marriages attributed to the Annie's makes Larry King look conservative. Today, women wouldn't feel the pressure to marry just to cohabittate and therefore the large number of marriages - six ( some may be publicity stunts ), reported for the original Annie would be considerably less. Many were never dissolved by divorce - making them illegal bigamy and polygamy and leaving the children born on the wrong side of the blanket. Like today, it's shacking up, but with an illegal, yet politically correct label of Mr. & Mrs.
The Harringtons track all three women and their managers, their marriages and their children, but primarily the original Annie Abbot aka Mrs Dixie Haywood from Millidgeville, the Confederate Capitol of Georgia, which Sherman burned in the Civil War. The biography follows Dixie Haygood, the Original Georgia Magnet until her death in 1916.
If anything, this is a true story of women bravely making their way in a man's world instead of quietly marrying men chosen for them by fathers or family elders and then quietly having babies. It took significant guts and chutzpah for even a single Annie to take to the stage. I applaud all three.
An excellent biography. Detailed, well written and humane, it was taken from factual documents, personal journals and a plethora of sources. Many of Annie Abbott's innovations are still being used today by magicians. She died alone, unlamented, buried in a pampers grave. The authors placed a headstone on her grave, raising awareness of her contributions.
Highly Recommended Biography!
One minor nitpick would be addressing one of her desendents Johanna Michaelsen, a Christian fundamentalist who claims she inherited satanic powers from Annie Abbott, despite all evidence to the contrary . But i guess thats why its a nitpick its honestly quite too absurd for an actual historian to do anything but laugh at this claim, a claim that Michaelsen had no proof but from an assertion and all evidence suggesting she was a performer and nothing more.
Overall an excellent look at a piece of lost history that shouldnt be just a prop used by fundamentalist scare mongers on the internet.