Cover image for Sisters of the extreme : women writing on the drug experience
Sisters of the extreme : women writing on the drug experience
Palmer, Cynthia.
Publication Information:
Rochester, Vt. : Park Street Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 310 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
Rev. ed. of: Shaman woman, mainline lady. 1st ed. 1982.
Images of women and drugs in myth and history -- Opium and the Victorian imagination -- Expatriates and vagabonds -- Mainline ladies -- Psychedelic pioneers -- Beats and hippies -- Choosers and abusers -- Shaman women at the end of the millennium.
Added Uniform Title:
Shaman woman, mainline lady.
Format :


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HV5824.W6 S55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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* An anthology of writings by some of the most influential women in history on the often misunderstood and misrepresented female drug experience.

* With great honesty, bravery, and frankness, women from diverse backgrounds write about their drug experiences.

Women have been experimenting with drugs since prehistoric times, and yet published accounts of their views on the drug experience have been relegated to either antiseptic sociological studies or sensationalized stories splashed across the tabloids. The media has given us an enduring, but inaccurate, stereotype of a female drug user: passive, addicted, exploited, degraded, promiscuous. But the selections in this anthology--penned by such famous names as Billie Holiday, Anais Nin, Maya Angelou, and Carrie Fisher--show us that the real experiences of women are anything but stereotypical.

Sisters of the Extreme provides us with writings by women from diverse occupations and backgrounds, from prostitute to physician, who through their use of drugs dared cross the boundaries set by society--often doing so with the hope of expanding themselves and their vision of the world. Whether with LSD, peyote, cocaine, heroine, MDMA, or marijuana, these women have sought to reach, through their experimentation, other levels of consciousness. Sometimes their quests have brought unexpected rewards, other times great suffering and misfortune. But wherever their trips have left them, these women have lived courageously--if sometimes dangerously--and written about their journeys eloquently.

Author Notes

Longtime drug historians, Cynthia Palmer and Michael Horowitz are the directors of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, the nation's largest private collection of drug literature. They are also the editors of Moksha: Aldous Huxley's Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience . Mr. Horowitz is the editor of Timothy Leary's Chaos and Cyberculture and a bibliography of his writings.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The literature of drug-taking usually seems entirely masculine, from De Quincey and Coleridge down to Kerouac and Leary. This substantial anthology demonstrates that women have written about the ecstactic and the dangerous aspects of drug-taking, too. Reminding us early of the Dionysiac maenads and the ancient Mycenaean poppy goddess, editors Palmer and Horowitz fast-forward to the opium-eating Victorians George Sand and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The early twentieth century brings such "oblivion seekers" as Boxcar Bertha and Caresse Crosby, then such "mainline ladies" of mid-century as Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf; much of the literature on them is proscriptive, concentrating less on drug highs than on the drug low life. With the Age of Aquarius and pychedelics, the writing often turns mystical and ecstatic. Attention is paid to the anthropological pioneers of shamanism as well as to recreational drug users. This extensive revision of Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady (1982) could provoke controversy, for its many self-reports by gifted women note positive as well as appallingly negative drug experiences. --Patricia Monaghan

Library Journal Review

The two books under review report on the use of various drugs, from opium to ecstasy, throughout the ages. With Sisters of the Extreme, Palmer and Horowitz (coeditors of Moksha: Aldous Huxley's Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience) have updated their 1982 anthology, Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady. Following a historical introduction, the authors present firsthand accounts of women on drugs, from Victorian times to the present. Among their subjects are Jane Addams, Edith Wharton, Caresse Crosby, Billie Holiday, Laura Huxley, Anita Hoffman, Bonnie Bremser, and Susan Sontag. Their stories range from sordid tales of heroin addiction and prostitution to quests for spiritual enlightenment. Through these selections, the editors succeed in demonstrating that women's experiences with drugs are "more varied and complex than stereotypes suggest." With over 120 illustrations, this lively introduction to a relatively neglected topic is recommended for larger public and academic libraries. The title of Plant's (Zeroes & Ones) book is somewhat misleading. While it discusses various writers associated with drugs, from Thomas De Quincey and Charles Baudelaire to William S. Burroughs and Henri Michaux, it quickly veers off into broader matters. More of a cultural history, the book examines the role of drugs in society from a variety of disciplines, including history, political science, psychology, philosophy, medicine, and economics. The topics covered range from Sigmund Freud on cocaine to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari on capitalism and schizophrenia, from the CIA's involvement in drug trafficking to the neurochemistry of psychoactive substances, and from the connections between drugs and witchcraft to an examination of the marketing of Coca-Cola. Plant has a gift for synthesis and manages to weave the diverse threads of her study into a coherent and generally readable book. Recommended for academic libraries.DWilliam Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Images of Women and Drugs in Myth and Historyp. 4
Greece and Crete
The Pleiades
Mycenaean Poppy Goddess
Helen of Troy
Pythia: The Delphic Oracle
Demeter and Persephone
Asia Minor and India
Nonwestern Cultures
Seven Sisters of Sleep
Mama Coca
Harvesting Opium
Kavakava Ceremony
Iboga Initiation
Visionary Vine
Peyote Woman
Sacred Plants of Mexico
Opium and the Victorian Imaginationp. 19
From "The Maniac"
"The Development of Genius"
"A True Dream"
From Valentine
From At Home and Abroad
"An Opium Fantasy"
From Villette
Untitled poem
"Perilous Play"
The Hookah, 1770-1885
From Twenty Years at Hull-House
From Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt
"An Opium Dream"
The Pipe and the Needle, 1880-90
"An Overdose of Hasheesh"
From A Mad Tour, Or a Journey Undertaken in an Insane Moment Through Central Europe on Foot
Patent Medicines
Coca Wine and Cocaine, 1880-1900
Expatriates and Vagabondsp. 70
"The Oblivion Seekers"
From Chicago May: Her Story
From The House of Mirth
From The Ashes of My Heart
From Movers and Shakers and Edge of Taos Desert
Hopheads, Snowbirds, and Vipers in Song
"The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band"
"Cocaine Lil"
"If You're a Viper"
White Lady
"Lunar Baedeker"
"Appalling Heart"
"Cocaine (Snow Poem)"
From The Passionate Years
From No Bed of Roses: The Diary of a Lost Soul
The War on Drugs
From Sister of the Road
From "The Big Smoke"
Mainline Ladiesp. 115
From The Lonely Trip Back
From Lady Sings the Blues
From The Fantastic Lodge: The Autobiography of a Girl Drug Addict
From Cookie
From Piaf: A Biography
From Toxique
From Gather Together In My Name
"Julia and the Bazooka"
Psychedelic Pioneersp. 151
Mazatec Magic Mushroom Ritual Chant
"I Ate the Sacred Mushrooms"
From "My Life with Gordon Wasson"
"Hashish Fudge"
From Enid Blyton: A Biography
From The Diary of Anais Nin, 1947-1955
From This Timeless Moment: A Personal View of Aldous Huxley
"LSD: Journals of an Artist's Trip"
From Myself and I
"Psychedelics and Western Religious Experience"
Beats and Hippiesp. 183
From Troia: Mexican Memoirs
From Trips: Rock Life in the Sixties
From "LSD-748"
From Memoirs of a Beatnik
"The Holidays at Millbrook--1966"
"Revolutionary Letter #39" [1969]
"Peyote Walk"
"Blues for Sister Sally"
"the pot bird story"
From "Marijuana Witchhunt"
From Talk
From Acid Temple Ball
From Trashing
"I Was Born on LSD"
"Peyote Equinox"
"The Mole People"
Underground Comics
Choosers and Abusersp. 236
From "Fast Speaking Woman"
"Billy Work Peyote"
"13 Tanka: In Praise of Smoking Dope"
From Visionary Vine: Psychedelic Healing in the Peruvian Amazon
From Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians
From Loose Change: Three Women of the Sixties
From The Butterfly Convention
"Meeting Mescalito at Oak Hill Ceremony"
From Journeys into the Bright World
On Writers and Stimulants
From Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal
From Postcards from the Edge
Shaman Women at the End of the Millenniump. 265
"On Hennepin Avenue"
"The Pattern That Connects"
"Nature, She's the Law"
"Visible Language"
"The Intensive"
"The Ecstatic Rite"
"Erich and Nina in Ecstasy"
"The Key"
"The Story of a Psychedelic Socialite and Ecstatic Dancer"
"The Brain vs. the Coochie"
"Women and Pot"
"The Best Time I've Ever Had on Acid"
"We put this piece of paper on our tongues"
"Telephone Talk"
"56 Reasons To Go Downtown"
"The Leaves of the Shepherdess"
"Four Score and LSD"
"To the Source"