People sometimes tell me that a woman would never have behaved like Anna Blanc in the 1900s, as if women hadn't yet evolved to be, well, people. I fear they don't know much about women or California in the 1900s. In fact, women were as brilliant, rebellious, resourceful, and brave back then as they are today.
Case in point - Fanny Bixby, the young, beautiful, unmarried daughter of one of the richest men in California, became a cop in 1908 in Long Beach. She arrested people, carried cuffs, and packed heat. Her dad hated it. Occasionally she got beat up, but she continued to do the work she had a passion for.
Jupiter, I love it when I come across stories about women from the Progressive Era who remind me of the fictional Anna Blanc. I especially relish the following tale because this bad ass woman very likely CAPTURED THE BOYLE HEIGHTS RAPE FIEND!
When writing THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC, I stole and fictionalized the true story of the Boyle Heights Rape Fiend from Officer Eddie King's eyewitness account. He was one of the LAPD officers who really dressed up in women's clothes, Joe Singer style, and conducted sting operations to catch the villain.
Here's what Officer King had to say.
All during the month of September 1910 from about 6:30 P.M. until the wee hours of the next morning, some thirty officers of the L.A. Police Department had been doing our best to catch one of the boldest and most ruthless criminals of that day. Known as the RAPE FIEND OF BOYLE HEIGHTS he was making life miserable for all members of the police department, and striking terror in the hearts of all citizens. Four of the thirty were on special duty, in other words the four of us were baiting the trap, that we so fondly hoped would catch the fiend. When ten of the women of Boyle Heights (all from that district) had been assaulted and raped, on the open streets during the early hours of each evening our Officials of the police department decided drastic measures were necessary. Detective Charley Leanard and and myself had the job of luring the fiend, by disguising (by dressing) in women's clothing and we were accompanied by Sergeant A. H. Ferns and Jerry Hickey as our male escorts.
This fiend had a habit of accosting a couple (man & woman) on the dark streets and tieing up the man, then raping the woman. Leanard and myself had wigs, veils, and woman's clothing at the home of Sergeant Gus Smith, where we dressed each evening while Ferns and Hickey awaited us, then each couple traveled the streets in opposite directions.
From the September 1960 issue of
THE FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE
What thirty LAPD officers could not accomplish in a month, Boyle Heights resident, Margaret Reardon, did over tea. She captured the suspected rape fiend, fed him breakfast, and brought him down to the station at gunpoint.
It's very Anna Blanc.
Here is what the Los Angeles Herald reports about the incident.
Boyle Heights Matron* with Revolver Compels Prisoner to
March Ahead of Her
STOPS STRANGE MAN BY GUN
Supposed Offender Slips Away as Warrant Is Being Made Out; Eludes Police
Compelling a man she believed to be the Boyle Heights Terror to enter her home and breakfast on tea and biscuits, and later bringing him down town under the same compelling influence, was the achievement of Mrs. Margaret Reardon, 2754 Winter Street, yesterday. She would have landed the man in jail pending an investigation of his record but for the fact that he slipped away while she was swearing to a warrant for his arrest and an attempt was being made to photograph him...
[Let's stop here for a moment. THE COPS LET HIM SLIP AWAY WHILE THEY WERE TAKING HIS MUG SHOT. Who was on duty? Officer Snow?]
BOUGHT A REVOLVER
"I saw him this morning in my backyard," she said yesterday. "He acted suspiciously and appeared to be attempting to find a place to secrete himself. For months, all during the time that women and their escorts have been attacked near my home, I have been disturbed at night by a man prowling around my house and tampering with the windows and locks on the door. Several times I have seen him running away into the night and once he clambered to a second-story window and dropped to the ground when he saw I had discovered him. I had purchased a revolver to protect myself the day before and fired at him twice through a door that led on an open porch and once from the window. I heard him cry out as if in pain as he ran away and leaped over a fence.
"Yesterday, when this man . . . saw me in the doorway he climbed over the backyard and ran across a vacant lot. I seized a revolver and followed him. When I threatened to shoot if he did not stop running he stopped short . . ."
GAVE HIM BREAKFAST
"With the revolver held at his head I drove him into my house and gave him tea and biscuits to breakfast on ... After he had drank a little tea I put on my hat and with him before me we walked down town... Three times he attempted to run away but the gun stopped him. I hope he is caught, for I feel sure he is the man who is prowling around this district. He answers the description of the man I fired upon, although it was quite dark. His peculiar slouchy walk is one of the things that stand out clearly in my memory."
Deputy District Attorney Veeteh, who made out the complaint sworn to by Mrs. Reardon, said yesterday that
every effort would be made by the authorities to effect his capture so that the various women who have been attacked may be given the opportunity of seeing him.
The Los Angeles Herald, Oct 2, 1910
And there you have it.
*She wasn't a police matron. Here "matron" refers to a married woman.