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A Look at the Famous Astrologer Evangeline Adams
by Karen Christino

Here are some of the legends: Evangeline Adams made astrology legal in New York. She predicted the Windsor Hotel fire, the stock market crash of '29, World War II, the deaths of King Edward VII, Enrico Caruso, and even herself. Her books, now all out of print, are eagerly sought after by students, and even stolen from library shelves. Her reputation rests on her astrological expertise, but she was also known to be a palmist. Some even say she was primarily psychic or clairvoyant. But the fact remains that she was the best-known American astrologer of her day. I was fascinated by this woman, and intrigued by the events in her life. Just what was true, and why is it still discussed over half a century after her death? As I began researching Adams' life for my book about her, I would ask these questions again and again.

Evangeline Adams had an eventful life and ran a hugely profitable and successful business at a time when women commonly remained dependent upon men for their livelihood. She has left us not only several astrology books, but an autobiography as well. And there is much documentation on her life available: Adams was an active promoter of herself, giving many interviews to newspaper and magazine reporters.

Fortunately, consistent birth data for Adams has been published: February 8, 1868 at 8:30 am in Jersey City, New Jersey, making her an Aquarian with Pisces rising. Adams' horoscope is quite revealing, as it indicates an emotionally sensitive individual. I feel that Adams truly believed in her work. Her compassionate nature drew her to help others through astrological consultation and guidance. The Pisces influence is also probably responsible for the mystery, glamour and romance which surround Adams.

Evangeline’s autobiography, The Bowl of Heaven is laced with humor and irony, and is her life as she would have us see it. I view the book as a promotional piece for both astrology and the author. As such, it is free of bold confessions, dicey personal anecdotes, or any hint of sex. Today we are accustomed to the juicy "tell all" biography.  But Evangeline Adams was writing at a different time, and she was writing as a professional. Her readers therefore only get those facts which are either entertaining or which support Adams' role as an astrological authority. If we will have the real story of Evangeline's life, we must read between the lines. 

Take, for example, the only references to her father: "My father died when I was 15 months old," and "My father, through no fault of his own, had lost most of his money just before his death." How tantalizing they are! And yet I have  been unable to find out exactly what occurred. Was there an accident or illness? Was the man swindled or did he make a bad investment? We may never know.

Ascertaining anything about Evangeline's personal romantic life was also difficult. Once more, limited details are provided by the author herself in her autobiography, but it appears obvious that her employer, Mr. Lord, was the same man to whom Evangeline was engaged. Yet there are glaring contradictions in her account. On one hand, she professes to have been in love with and engaged to the man. Then she describes herself as being "totally unresponsive" and declares "I did not love him." What really went on?

We can say that logically she contradicts herself. Setting pure logic aside, however, it is apparent that she had mixed feelings about the relationship. She is able to see, feel, and understand alternate views of the situation, especially in retrospect. A complicated emotional nature is revealed.

What is also revealed is the extremely important role which astrology played in Adams' decision-making process. I estimate that her engagement took place between about 1893 and 1896, when she then left her secretarial job behind and began practicing astrology professionally. She had been studying astrology for at least seven or eight years and already had great faith in it. I believe that Evangeline herself broke off the engagement. In late 19th century Boston, this was a real no-no, even approaching the censure of divorce (a woman couldn't even kiss a man unless they were engaged, meaning that they would soon definitely marry). This must have been a frightfully dramatic episode, but Adams characteristically sidesteps the details. She goes on, instead, to discuss how vehemently her family opposed her. Obviously, part of their anger was due to the fact that Evangeline was breaking not only intellectual, religious and philosophic taboos, but social ones as well.

Any influence Mr. Lord exerted was along conventional lines -- the traditional promise of a home and family.  Her astrology teacher, Dr. Smith, on the other hand, represented the unconventional:  astrology and an independent life. We can only imagine how torn Adams was as she fought to reconcile these opposing ambitions within herself.  What would be the element of power in her life, the love and financial support of a well-to-do husband, or having control of her own destiny through an independent career? The objective nature of astrology finally tipped the scales.

Evangeline Adams was born during the Victorian era. She came from the Boston area, in her own words, "the most conservative circle of that conservative city". Some of her forebears had been Congregationalist ministers, and this conservative religious group was the successor to the Massachusetts Colony's Puritans. Although Adams would from young adulthood espouse untraditional views and unorthodox beliefs, her upbringing was what would in those days have been termed "quite proper." Extremely independent and liberal-thinking, Adams nonetheless had as part of her nature a strict sense of social morality. Her telling and sometimes humorous account of an early consultation with a prostitute gives us insight into her background. "That first interview in Boston prostrated me. I wasn't myself for weeks. And I have the same reaction even now on a less violent scale." Here we have a woman with a certain moral code. And we can expect that she will always try to conduct herself in a manner consistent with good taste and proper decorum. Strong social forces forced Evangeline to keep her private life private.

Adams' impressionistic style is what makes her writing so enjoyable. But as we have seen, it also make it quite difficult to verify particulars; intuition must fill in the gaps. Her writing technique, which I feel was quite natural, contributed to what I view as the "myths" which surround Adams. Many stories are so richly symbolic and almost parable-like that they lend themselves quite easily to embellishment upon repetition.

Take, for instance, Adams' arrest for fortune-telling in New York in 1914. Many publications have repeated the fiction that Evangeline made astrology legal in New York. Anyone who took a look at Section 889 of the NY Criminal Code would see that it still remained illegal for anyone to "tell fortunes." So where does this misleading statement originate? 

If we return to The Bowl, Evangeline tells us that, "I had but one ambition: to legalize astrology in the State of New York". She goes on to give us an overview of how she was acquitted of wrong-doing.  Yet we must recognize that the laws had not changed. A precedent had been set, however, in how the law would be interpreted in the future. Just because an astrologer practiced professionally would no longer legally mean that she was guilty of wrong doing.  Evangeline implies in her book that she was successful in making astrology legal -- the reader's mind tends to fill in the rest in a certain way. The is the nature of Piscean accounting!

Today, there do continue to be those who believe that Adams was primarily psychic or clairvoyant.  Her four books on astrology convince me that this is not the case, and her predictions consistently seem to invoke the clear timing which only astrology can provide. Evangeline was highly attuned to the planet Neptune. We must assume that she had quite a strong intuition, and that she was in touch with the Infinite. If we want to understand Evangeline Adams as a true and complex person, we must be willing to admit that there was more to her life than astrology alone.

I cannot help but feel that Adams' life and memory have now been truly resurrected, as well as transformed as a result.  So many of the old legends turn out to be true, confirmation is available, even though some claims have often been exaggerated through the years.

____________________

Karen Christino is a consulting astrologer and the author of Foreseeing the Future: Evangeline Adams and Astrology in America (One Reed Publications, 2002). She's also written Star Success (Pocket Books) and articles for Marie Claire, Modern Bride and Seventeen magazines. Her popular "Choose Your Career" column has appeared in American Astrology magazine since 1992.

 

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