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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

PERKINS, ANNA "NEWSPAPER ANNIE"

PERKINS, ANNA "NEWSPAPER ANNIE"

PERKINS, ANNA "NEWSPAPER ANNIE" (ca. 1849-1 Feb. 1900), a fixture on PUBLIC SQUARE in the 1890s who acquired the sobriquet "Newspaper Annie" from selling the CLEVELAND PRESS, was also conspicuous for advocating women's dress reform, exemplified in her self-devised costume of tennis cap, cropped hair, men's jacket, knee-length white duck trousers, and cotton stockings. Born to Alvah and Cynthia Perkins in Green Springs, Ohio in the late 1840s and growing up in Berlin Hts., Perkins found her unconventional feminism and poetry vocation incompatible with small-town life. She came to Cleveland in the late 1880s and brought privately printed copies of her self-explanatory poem, "What Is It?", apparently the only surviving example of her work outside of occasional newspaper contributions. She lived by selling the Press on Public Square. Among her other idiosyncrasies were vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, and spelling reform, to which she conformed by spelling her name "Ana Purkin."

After an initial period of ridicule and harassment, Perkins seems to have earned the tolerant respect of Clevelanders, becoming a kind of elder statesman among the city's newsboys and a frequent speaker at the FRANKLIN and SOROSIS CLUBS. A favorite Cleveland folklore relates how grocer W. P. Southworth, seeing her shivering in the winter cold in front of his store, escorted her to Hull & Dutton's to outfit her with a man's overcoat. Anna Perkins died of typhoid fever in St. Alexis Hospital. After a simple service arranged by local clubwomen, her body was returned to Berlin Hts. for burial in accordance with her wishes.