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April 2011

 —  This month, I want to repeat a previous post, mainly because I want to highlight the differences between the ‘real’ and the ‘ideal’. Koreshans preached equality of the sexes, but they also had to live in a world which (at the time) did not even allow women to vote.

So, this month we look at some correspondence of Annie Ordway, also known as Victoria Gratia. Victoria (and many others, including Koresh), considered herself the rightful successor to Cyrus Teed (Koresh). Teed proclaimed her the “Pre-Eminent”. He gave her the name “Victoria Gratia Koresh”. When Teed died in 1908, Victoria was in Washington D.C. attending to Koreshan business. She immediately returned to Estero and arrived back on December 26th. The New York Times reported that she immediately ordered his body interred (NTY-December 27, 1908). This apparently caused an uproar among the faithful and within no time at all, Victoria was replaced by the Board of Directors. She relocated to Sanford Florida and on the anniversary of Teed’s birth in 1920, [see pencilled date on the image – 1919 appears to have been added even later] she wrote a proclamation offering to return to the colony at Estero. The document consists of eleven pages in total. It is made up mostly of references to Teed’s writing about the role of Victoria.

It has never been completely clear why the Unity at Estero became divided over the leadership of Victoria, although, as the New York Times article points out, Victoria had ordered the body of Doctor Teed to be interred and there was disagreement with that from the rank and file members of the Unity. That was probably the biggest reason, but there could have been resentment over Victoria’s role when Teed was alive, and his death made her power null and void in some people’s minds. Either way, she fell out of favor very quickly, but there always remained a group, albeit small, who believed she would someday return.

As the years past, and the Unity broke up even further, the return of Victoria became less and less of a possibility. By the time this ‘proclamation’ was written there was little likelihood that she would ever return. On top of all that, the whole idea of an elite leadership seemed to have faded.
Of course, the majority did not accept this offer and Victoria eventually moved to St. Petersburg Florida where she died on January 8, 1923. Victoria, a.k.a. Annie Ordway was born Annie Grace Glossen in Boston, on April 10, 1844. She was married to David Ordway and at some point left her husband, presumably to join Dr. Teed’s movement.

Categories: Monthly Feature.

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