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Ida M. Beard, b. 1862
My Own Life, or, A Deserted Wife
[North Carolina?: s.n., 1898?].


In 1862, Ida May Crumpler was born near Salem, North Carolina, to a family of modest means. Her father was a painter and farmer, while her uncle, Newton Crumpler, was an important lawyer in the area. Ida May fell in love with John Beard when she was still in grammar school, but her family disapproved of Beard because he was poorer than they. The text alludes to the possibility that Beard may also have been of mixed race. Despite her family's objections, and after a long, clandestine courtship, Ida and John married in 1880. In My Own Life, or a Deserted Wife (ca. 1898) Ida May Beard recounts the details of what became an unhappy marriage.

Her marital troubles began when John Beard started drinking too much and spent much of their money gambling. The couple moved frequently, so that Beard, who was always in debt, could escape his creditors. Beard alternately maligned and fawned over Ida, but eventually left her behind in Winston, North Carolina. He wrote Ida a year later to say she should get a divorce. Ida was forced to support herself and her children, first opening a boarding house and later traveling and selling her book. While Ida Beard laments her foolish marriage in her autobiography, she also accepts the consequences of her actions and fights to maintain her dignity and independence.

Harris Henderson

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