I’m experimenting with a new style I’m calling From the End. I’ll tell you the end of the story first, and then give you the background. If it goes well, I’ll write more posts like this.

 

There is a prison at the base of the mountains near Tehachapi that was constructed in 1932 to rehabilitate women. Today, the facility is a supermax all-male prison known as the California Correctional Institution.

In February of 1941, the cells were still filled with female prisoners. Through the grim passages passed a tall slender woman in her late 40s, following a matron.

Courtesy http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov

Eva Rablen had been paroled by the board of directors at the California Institute for Women at Tehachapi, over numerous protests and against the recommendations of the Tuolumne County Superior Court and officials. She had been a prisoner longer than most other inmates: 11 years, 8 months, and 8 days. Eva was one of the original prisoners who was transferred from San Quentin to Tehachapi, as the new prison was typically called.

She had been infamous but it was a forgotten woman who emerged from behind Tehachapi prison walls. No one appeared to be waiting to greet her when she stepped outside, but she dunked into a waiting car that spirited her away.

 

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Arsenic was not uncommon at the turn of the century. It was a common means of pest control – often as rat poison. In humans, arsenic poisoning produces symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain, and death.

In a 1927 Scientific Monthly article, Professor Norman Harrar described arsenic this way: “One of the poisons known to the ancients, one of the weapons of many famous and of many more obscure criminals, one of the allies of man in his war on marauding insects, one of the most deadly of toxic substances – arsenic.”

And yet, many people took arsenic willingly and habitually. Arsenic-eaters consumed the deadly poison for many reasons, most often for its ability to clear the complexion as well as creating and maintaining a youthful countenance.

The habit was first noticed on a wide scale in Styria, a state in southeastern Austria. They called it hydrach. DC’s Evening Star said, “The habit is generally began at the age of fifteen and continued up to the ages of seventy and seventy-five.”

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Evatima Tardo’s remarkable life lasted 34 years. In just over three decades, she was a: