FIRST EDITION OF SISTER OF THE ROAD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BOX-CAR BERTHA, INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR, DR. BEN L. REITMAN
REITMAN, Ben, L. Sister of the Road. The Autobiography of Box-Car Bertha. New York: Macaulay, (1937). Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. $2400.
First edition of this fictionalized autobiography of "Box-car Bertha," an icon of the Great Depression who brought to light the struggle of homeless women in America, the basis for the 1972 Martin Scorcese film, inscribed in the year of publication by the author: "July 16-1937. To Don Curtis Keefer with best wishes. The Author. Ben L. Reitman."
Sister of the Road is a fictionalized autobiography of Box-Car Bertha, drawn from a composite of three homeless women Dr. Ben Reitman met during his lengthy career as a doctor helping women in trouble in Chicago at the Capone houses of prostitution, the Chicago House of Correction, the Cook County Jail, and as Director of the Chicago Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease. While Reitman was regarded as something of saint for his commitment to society's least fortunate, he is perhaps most notable for his unwillingness to elevate himself above his patients. Here, he tells Box-Car Bertha's story with empathy, detailing her life of train-hopping, hitch-hiking, shoplifting, prostitution, and unwed motherhood. "The disorganization evident in current American life is frequently shown in ways of living that are hidden from public notice and that are not likely to gain scholarly attention. In such areas one is likely to find unusual social types, unsuspected codes of conduct, and bizarre form of living, all reflecting efforts at adjustment in the midst of an unregulated world. Any revealing study of such an area is to be welcomed both for an increased understanding of our contemporary life and for the light thrown on the nature and play of social disorganization. From both points of view Sisters of the Road is a helpful addition to our literature, since it portrays in an intimate and telling way such an unknown sphere of modern life" (contemporary review, American Journal of Sociology). The basis for the the 1972 Martin Scorcese film adaptation, starring David Carradine and Barbara Hershey. This copy is inscribed to Don Curtis Keefer, who ran Keefer Laboratories in Chicago during the middle of the 20th century. Keefer was sued by the federal government in 1949 for selling an abortifacient under the name Interferin across state lines. The author, Reitman, and Keefer likely met professionally. Reitman would have had sympathy for Keefer's motivations and use for his product.
Book about-fine, with smoothed crease and small closed tear to page 111-12. Rare dust jacket bright and extremely good, with light soiling, a bit of wear mainly to extremities, and vertical crease to spine. A handsome inscribed copy.