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Edna May Nelson

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The Seattle Star, December 7, 1909 image of Edna May Nelson


Edna May Nelson, county jail, is "The Women Who Can Hold Her Tongue."

For over a week this enigmatic young woman has waged a battle of wits with the police, and today the police know as little about her, her name, antecedents, place of origin and intentions as they did when she was first taken to the city jail.

Young, of prepossessing appearance, with every indication of education and culture, she bides her time good naturedly in the county jail, while detectives from the prosecuting attorney's office, department stores, hotels and the city police department lay traps for her. They have spread their bird lime in a thousand alluring ways, but always in vain; they have tried their crude psychology, fear, greed, hope, and she continues to smile and discuss literature. And in the labyrinths of literature the sleuths are blindfolded and lost.

Uses Nom de Plume.

The police have sought information about her from magazines. Magazines have no record of an Edna May Nelson. When the police tell her so, she blandly replies that she wrote under a nom de plume. Further questioning receives the lady-like but determined reply that she does not care to have her pen name known at present.

She apparently has no friends in Seattle. Nobody knows her here, or if they do, the police are ignorant of the connection. She is not a woman given to exchanging confidences. Women detectives have been put in the same quarters with her as prisoner for the purpose of learning her story, but all they learned was her appreciation of Conan Coyle, Monsieur LeCoq, Poe and Old King Brady.

Has One Explanation.

Her explanation of her rather impractical method of securing hats and dress goods is that she was seeking local color for a novel. This is her one declaration to which she clings persistently. Nothing can shake her from the conviction that she is a novelist, and that she is piling up literary treasures of experiences that she will some day dispose of for fame and riches.

Of course all this is a baffling mystery to the police. Those of them who do not look upon novel writing as a crime akin to larceny, believe that it righly comes under the vagrancy statutes. In the first place they cannot understand why she wants to write, and second, can't quite grasp the abstract proposition of "local color."

So Edna May Nelson has them guessing, and all because she has the unusual gift of holding her tongue.