Black Oxen unites such unlikely topics as medical rejuvenation treatments, eugenics, American youth culture, and cross-generational relationships. The beautiful American widow of a Hungarian count, Mary Zattiany is fifty-eight years old; after receiving experimental “rejuvenation treatments” and returning to America, however, she is mistaken for a woman in her twenties, and falls in love with a much younger man. Set in an era fixated on youth, beauty, and pleasure, but focusing on the experiences of an aging woman, Black Oxen offers a unique and unsettling view of the Jazz Age.
Black Oxen was written in a burst of mental energy after Gertrude Atherton herself received an experimental anti-aging treatment; the introduction and appendices to this edition explore parallels between Atherton’s medical treatment and that of her rejuvenated protagonist, as well as provide selections from other contemporary writings on aging, science, and the role of women in the 1920s. Stills and posters from the 1924 film adaptation are also included.