Book General Admission
Mary Cotter Illustration
  • Name: Mary Cotter
  • Age: 16 in 1918
  • Emigrated: Mother emigrated 

We liked to enjoy ourselves, socialising and going out, like Mary Cotter who spent the evenings leading up to her sixteenth birthday at Revere Beach chatting to sailors.

The streets of New York in the poorer districts of the city are about the worst school...(a) girl could graduate from.

Annual report of the Catholic Protectory of New York

New York, 1879

"Most nights, me and Grace Donaghy meet up down the Rough Riders at the Hippodrome. We never ride the carousel. The pair of us don’t have a nickel to our name. Even if we had the money, we wouldn’t spend it on horsey rides. We’re not babies anymore. I’ll be turning sixteen soon. Gracie says we can pass for twenty if we stuff our tops and pinch our cheeks to look rouged. It must be working. Them two sailors were a good bit older and they liked us just fine until somebody saw us together and reported it. We were messing about on the carousel. By the time those patrollers arrived, our fine sailors had disappeared. The young boys were calling us all sorts of filthy names. I was giving as good as I got. Agent Rockwood was horrified. Nice girls didn’t use such vulgar words. They didn’t get caught with sailors either. Or hang ‘round the amusements, in the dark, with dirty boys.

He carted us down the Metropolitan station just to read us the riot act. Then back home we trotted and woke my ma up in the middle of the night. The police wanted me examined, to see if my honour was intact. Ma wasn’t having any of it. She said I was a virtuous girl. I’d never given her a moment’s bother. I don’t know if she believed that herself. Sure, I’m out most nights, running the roads. But she wouldn’t be budged. Nobody was getting near my private parts unless Grace Donaghy was for getting the very same treatment and seeing she’d two brothers on the force, that wasn’t happening any time soon. In the end they wrote me up and told Ma to keep a tighter eye on me.

Ma says we’re done with Revere Beach. We’ll just stay in Somerton next year. But I’d bet good money that when it gets warm, she’ll start complaining about the stinking city and how pleasant it’d be at the coast. Before you know it, the Cotters will be on the train to Revere Beach. I’ll be back in the Hippodrome, meeting Gracie at the Rough Riders. We’ll be another year older, not one bit wiser, ready to see what the hot night brings."

This is an imagined version of what happened to me. It’s based upon the parts of my story that were recorded and ground-breaking research into other Bad Bridgets who lived in Boston, New York and Toronto from 1838 to 1918.