When Audrey Munson was born—on June 8, 1891, to Katherine and Edgar Munson, in Rochester, New York—her life was expected to take the typical course of the life of a woman born in a rural area at that time. She was to grow up with strong morals, in a righteous family, receiving a cursory amount of education. When the time was right, she was to marry an eligible man and become the head of her own household, leading a simple life focused on the upkeep of family, hearth, and home. America was taking shape on the backs of women who followed these ideals.
But there was another option, perhaps best embodied in Theodore Dreiser’s 1900 novel Sister Carrie, in which Dreiser’s heroine lives a life of moral ambiguity as a rural woman who makes her way to the city, where she becomes a mistress and an actress. Like Carrie, Audrey was destined for a fate crueler and stranger than that prescribed for a woman of her era.
Read more in The Believer’s Summer 2015 issue!