Blessed Betty
John A. Ward
Dorsal Winner

Blessed Betty of Bethlehem (1) will be the first steampunk (2) saint. She was beatified on the 4th of July, the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, who was the daughter of the King of Aragon. The beatification is not official because it was announced by a right-wing group of grassroots political extremists and not any religious organization recognized by the IRS. The announcement came during the late night hours of a patriotic rally, but was divinely inspired by several cases of Blue Nun wine, which is not actually made by real nuns, unlike Christian Brothers wine, which is distilled by real brothers.

Like Betty, Saint Elizabeth had a husband whose neglect and infidelity she bore with much patience (3). The parallels in their lives are striking. Both founded houses for penitent women. Whereas Elizabeth focused on prayer and good works, Betty did penance by wearing uncomfortably tight corsets and spiky high heels that made it difficult to walk and impossible to run (4). Blessed Betty died in the early morning of November 1st, 1875 after a fall from the bell tower of a disorderly nunnery that she sought to reform on Halloween. She was thirty-six.

Her autopsy shows that she must have suffered greatly. She had all the signs of Morton's neuroma, Haglund's deformity, hammertoe and a shortened calf and Achille's tendon (5). Blessed Betty's life of acetecism rose alongside the fortunes of Bethlehem Steel. Coincidence? I think not. At her funeral, her husband, who esteemed her piety and delivered the eulogy and proclaimed that she gave her suffering and ultimately her life so that Bethlehem Steel could survive (6).

(1) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania lies in the Lehigh Valley where deposits of anthracite coal fueled more than ten blast furnaces built by 1850. Bethlehem Steel became a leading supplier of rails for the nation's trains. (
(2) Steampunk is an alloy of alternative history and speculative fiction usually set in the Industral Revolution of Victorian England. (Thus spake Wikipedia).
(3) Saint Elizabeth's life can be verified in Butler's Lives of the Saints, Concise Edition Revised and Updated, Edited by Michael Walsh, Harper One, New York, 1991. Don't go looking for Mary Magdalen there. She's in the index, but most of the saints with bios are administrators.
(4) Victorian fashion is a milder form of the religious flagellation that was popular during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. (Personal communication from an anonymous contemporary devotee).
(5) I blame this on the high heels. They have been implicated in such injuries. (HealthDay News, July 16).
(6) Officials of the company could not be reached for comment on whether Betty's devotions called God's favor to their enterprise, but it couldn't have hurt. Could it?

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First published: November, 2010
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