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Women and the World of Dime Novels

Crazy Kate

Example of:
The independent woman
The ruined woman

Featured in:
The Rover of the Forest; or, The Warrior's Last War-Whoop

The rover of the forest

She had been the daughter of an officer at Edward, loved and caressed by all, a pretty, harmless child. Wilton Boyd was ordered to the command of a company of Rifles, then stationed at the Fort. A close intimacy ensued, with results like many others. He promised to marry her. But when the time came...he fled, and buried himself among the Oneidas. Her father sunk into the grave, and, she, poor girl, went mad. (38)

Crazy Kate is introduced as the victim of the rakish behavior of Wilton Boyd, driven mad by his ill use. During her wanderings in the forest, Kate meets Mollie Hanley, the latest object of Wilton's attentions. In Kate, Mollie is confronted with the tragic consequences of Wilton's dishonorable behavior. Kate, however, becomes more than a simple cautionary tale. Her downfall provokes sympathy from those around her, and she is pitied rather than shunned. Mollie, in particular, befriends her, to both her and Kate's benefit. Kate sees how her erstwhile lover is treating Mollie, and this forceful recognition of his true character enables Kate's return to sanity in time to help protect her newfound friend.

Kate took her carbine in her hand. “Do you see this, Wilton? You remember that you yourself taught me its use. You know how expert I grew. I now give you two minutes, in which to get out of range; at the end of that time, be assured I shall fire at you, and do my best to hit you.” (82)

Kate proves herself to be more than a victim of an unscrupulous man's licentiousness. She is a true pioneer woman: skilled with a gun and willing to use it. Wilton knows this, and he runs when she threatens him. She even earns the respect of Onondaga, a Native American ally whose life she saves. He says of her: "Brave girl dat. No business to be squaw. Ought to be warrior" (96). Kate gets her well-earned reward in the end. In a true fairy-tale twist, Wilton Boyd is injured in the attack he has orchestrated to kidnap Mollie, and shortly before he dies, he repents, going so far as to marry Kate to repair her reputation. After Wilton has died and she has moved on with her life, Kate gets the dime novel equivalent of "happily ever after": "In time, she became the wife of a true man" (100).