As someone who wishes that contemporary yoga were more socially conscious than it is, I'm very taken with the fact the Vivekananda was also an outspoken, radical social critic - both of India and the United States.
The 1893 Chicago Daily Tribune article, "Hindoo Criticizes Christianity," for example, reports on what was for the time really quite an amazing attack on the then-championed conceits of "White Man's Burden":
KA-BLAM! Take THAT, you intolerant self-righteous missionaries and colonizers!
( . . . and, perhaps, our wimpily apolitical notions of "ahimsa" today?)
On a lighter note, it's also true that the press loved to make fun of yoga back then just as they do today. Here's The Milwaukee Journal's take on Vivekananda's work teaching asana and meditation in New York City:
Then, as now, women were the main practitioners of yoga in America. Here's a nice pic of Vivekananda picnicking with the ladies:
Once the racist anti-immigrant backlash of the early 20th century got into full swing, however, yoga's popularity with women became Exhibit A of its depravity. Here's a typical report on that era's anti-yoga hysteria from The Washington Post (1911):
If you're interested in learning more about this weird period in American yoga history, Robert Love, author the The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, wrote an excellent (and very funny) article about it back in 2006 that you can access here.
In case you're not familiar with them, two other excellent recent books on the history of American yoga are Stephanie Syman's The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, and Philip Goldberg's American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West.
If any of you readers have any good American yoga history links, I'd love it if you could share them here! It's a fascinating story that we're still very much in the middle of writing . . .