Annie Edson Taylor, an American Teacher was the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She went on this adventure on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901 with a desire to secure her later years financially, and avoid the poorhouse.
For this, she used a custom-made barrel of oak and iron and padded it with a mattress. This entire preparation took her several days as no one else assisted her in this “potential suicide”
How she made her trip over Niagara Falls possible?
Two days prior to her own attempt, a domestic cat was sent over to the Horseshoe Falls to test the strength of the barrel. It is said that the cat survived the plunge and was found with a bleeding head after 17 minutes. Right after this, Taylor even took a picture with the cat.
On October 24, 1901, Taylor attempted the stunt with her lucky little heart-shaped pillow. The barrel was closed with a lid, after which her friends pumped it with air using a bicycle tire pump and the hole was sealed with a pump.
She then set off from Goat Island, a small island in Niagara River, located in the middle of Niagara Falls. The Niagara current took her barrel to Horseshoe Falls and since then it has become a sit for stunting at Niagara Falls.
Shortly, rescuers found her relatively uninjured, with just a small wound on her head. It just took her 20 minutes to complete the trip.
What did she do after this attempt?
After this experience, Taylor could not build much wealth and the little that she accumulated from the event was spent to hire private detectives for her Manager, who escaped with the barrel.
She spent her last years posing for photographs, writing, working as a clairvoyant and providing magnetic therapeutic treatments.
She finally died on April 29, 1921, aged 83 in New York.
Her character has appeared in various films, poems, stories, TV shows etc. In fact, she is also depicted in a National Geographic special “Conquering Niagara” where National Geographic documents all stunts attempted over the falls.