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Here's to the Crazy Ladies

Patricia Sullivan

We just got a note from a reader from Scotland who asked for an obit of Deborah Palfrey, the D.C. Madam, who committed suicide yesterday at her mother's house. He argued for a formal obituary on this basis:

" -- If one of her diaper wearing clients from the senate died tomorrow, you would run his obituary
-- Just because she committed suicide does not make her less note-worthy
-- She died during her fifteen minutes of fame
-- This lady's death speaks volumes about the American justice system and the hypocritical views on prostitution."

Thinking about Ms. Palfrey, I was reminded of all those other women who have been called crazy over the years: Martha Mitchell, Molly Ivins, Zelda Fitzgerald, to name but a few. Columnist Ellen Goodman wrote a thoughtful column about Mitchell in 1976, upon her death. We're trying to get a digital version of it online, but in the meantime, let me quote:

"Here's to all the Crazy Ladies who wanted to be Somebody and settled for being Outrageous. May they rest in peace. Here's to all the Crazy Ladies who were patted on the head while they were harmless pets and were ruthlessly punished when they became serious. ...Here's to them all, the Crazy Ladies who, finally, after a lifetime, refused to stay in their places. Here's to all the frivolous, flaky ladies who dropped the mask of the lovable fool.
Here's to the one who changed too late to save herself. May she rest in peace."

By Patricia Sullivan |  May 2, 2008; 1:43 PM ET  | Category:  Patricia Sullivan
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