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Hedwig Michel

This past weekend the Fort Myers News Press featured a story about Hedwig Michel. I thought it would be important to make a few corrections to the stories and perhaps make some observations.

First, in the “Tropicalia” article the author said:

Some of the group’s members grumbled about this German whirlwind, but she stormed on. Michel revitalized the group’s general store, ran its trailer park, opened a Western Union office, a restaurant and a gas station. Whether or not she believed Koreshan doctrine is an open question, as is her personal life. Michel never married, as far as anyone can tell, and whether she had romances is anyone’s guess. Those who knew her invariably characterize her as strong, shrewd and driven. But forceful as she was, a series of fires, ailing members and crumbling buildings eventually took their toll.

It is interesting to put it this way… “grumbled”. From what I have read it is true that Hedwig brought some stability to the community and that she ran things and helped the Unity to continue. However, I have always found it interesting that members like Laurie Bubbett, Allen Andrews and Claude Rahn, three men who literally grew up together became enemies later in life – after Hedwig came on the scene. She must have certainly been the source of their division. I’ve also always heard stories of how Vesta Newcomb had a great deal of disdain for Hedwig.

This is not to say that these community members were not at fault in some way. Living in a community puts the whole idea of community to the test. There were always underlying issues. Victoria Gratia’s expulsion would certainly give testimony to that.

The article also says (as above) “Michel never married, as far as anyone can tell”. She was married in Germany and according to a letter in our archives:

Included in this collection is a typed letter, dated 14 February 1940 in which Peter Bender introduces Hedwig to the Koreshan leadership. He refers to her as Mrs. Levi-Michel and says that she is separated from her husband, who is living in France. He says she intends to use her maiden name in the U.S.

So, the debate continues as to whether Hedwig was the savior or the curse. Certainly there are two sides to every story…

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