“I don't know what her last words to me were, she had to run for the train,” Barry, Evelyn’s Fiancé
531: Evelyn McHale
The Subject of One of LIFE Magazine’s Most Famous Pictures--“A Beautiful Suicide”
Born: 20 September 1923, Berkeley, California, United States of America
Died: 1 May 1947, Manhattan, New York, United States of America
Not much is known about Evelyn’s life; other than the fact she leapt to her death from the 86th floor (otherwise known as the observation deck) of the Empire State Building.
Her body landed largely intact on a United Nations limousine and a photography student who was there at the time took a picture of her approximately four minutes after her death.
Before she took the final leap that would lead to her death, Evelyn had survived a troubled childhood. Her parents separated, her mother suffered from depression, and Evelyn moved a lot as a child. However, after she graduated high school in 1942, she went on to join the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. By 1944, Evelyn had left the service and was working as a bookkeeper in New York. At a New Years’ Eve Party in 1945, Evelyn was introduced to the man who would become her fiancé. They were engaged and were planning a wedding in June of 1947. Evelyn had apparently inherited her mother’s depression, and often told her fiancé she was scared she wouldn’t make a good wife, which he later told reporters he thought was ridiculous. The morning of her death, Evelyn left her fiancé after a short visit and boarded the train back to New York City. Less than five hours later, Evelyn was dead.
Evelyn’s suicide note that she left behind said she wouldn’t make a good wife to anyone and that “he” would be better off without her, meaning her fiancé. Evelyn also stated: “Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”
The saddest part is she specifically asked in her suicide note to have her body cremated so that no one would see any part of her. Now her picture will live on forever since Andy Warhol also appropriated it for one of his prints. I have chosen to use an image of Evelyn from when she was alive, in order to honor one of her last wishes. However, if you wish to see the photograph in question, it is easy to find on the internet, and is even included in some of the sources listed below.
Evelyn’s fiancé moved to Florida and never married. The photographer who took the photo would never publish another picture.
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