Lately I have been digging out stories about cross-dressers and trans people from the British Newspaper Archive and tweeting them. It’s become a little bit of a series so I’ll add them here on this website too.
There have been some corkers and, as you might imagine, some of the stories have shown a lack of sympathy, empathy or any kind of understanding. However, I have also found some remarkably ‘modern’ attitudes, such as in this story of the Female Husband and his wife, where Mr. Allen is accepted as male. So much so, that his physical abuse of his wife is applauded.
From The London Standard, 4 February 1829
THE FEMALE HUSBAND.
James Allen, alias the female husband, the individual whose singular case excited so much public attention, quarrelled on Sunday, the day preceding his (or, more correctly speaking, her) death, with his wife, and struck her a severe blow over the right eye, whilst in the act of undressing her, when in a state of intoxication, and putting her to bed. James Allen abhorred his wife’s habits so much, that on going out to his work on Monday morning, the very day of his death (for, by way of counter-distinction, we shall speak of this individual in the masculine gender), he swore a great oath, vowing that he should never earn another shilling for her support — a prediction which was, alas! too soon was too awfully fulfilled; for the reputed James Allen was that very morning killed, by a piece of timber falling upon him in a sawpit, which crushed his head, and drove some parts of his brain through the roof of his mouth, which was , in consequence thereof, at first mistaken for his tongue. Mrs. Allen received the intelligence of the death of her pretended husband with great composure. She has since resumed her maiden name, Smith; but followed him to the grave with the wound, or bruise, she received on the Sunday night visible in her face, and wears widow’s weeds for the loss of her departed equivocal lord. She calls her friends to witness respecting her good conduct on the trying occasion, considering the very peculiar circumstances of the case. Her father says that Allen was as handsome a young man as ever the sun shone upon when he married his daughter. But the widow Allen, now Smith, is a very squatty, plain, and ordinary looking woman. It was ascertained upon a post mortem inspection, that the pretended James Allen had suckled a child; and two surgeons out of three were of opinion that she had given given birth to a child, which, upon opening the body, with the consent of the widow, proved to have been the fact. A son of James Allen’s is now said to be alive, and 20 years of age. Some years ago Allen went to the East Indies to visit a brother, who had since remitted him 1,080l. [£1080], to be lodged in the bank, for which Allen was to receive the interest, which he declined to accept, preferring to live by the labour of his hands. Allen had a box near his bed, supposed to contain valuable property, which he allowed no one to approach whenever he had occasion to open it. He also was said to have had papers, notes, and bills about his person, concealed in a dirty linen wrapper or pocket; but both box and pocket have since disappeared. The person of the deceased was beautifully shaped, and his legs and feet particularly well made, but stuffed with flannel from top to toe, to fill up his boots and male attire. Some grand mystery is strongly suspected to lie at the bottom of the whole transaction but it would be uncharitable to repeat the surmises that are insinuated on this subject; still there must have been some very cogent reason for such a protracted, and certainly unpleasant disguise. Those who knew the parties well assert that the widow Allen has been all along aware of the real sex of the deceased, who, some time ago, was dangerously ill, when Mrs. Allen and another female, in her confidence, intended to lay the body out, in case of death ensuing then, to prevent the discovery of his sex. James Allen was always extremely reserved, sober, and industrious — the very reverse of Mrs. Allen’s disposition, with whose failings he was, for reasons that may, perhaps, never transpire, obliged to put up. Mrs. Allen’s father is reported to have said to her, it was her own fault that she remained in this situation, as she could by making the disclosure, have ridded herself of so unnatural a tie; to which she replied, that she did not choose to expose herself to the sneers of the world. However, this explanation was very unsatisfactory to her acquaintances. Mrs. Allen continues to reside at No. 32 East-lane. Bermondsey, in the house of a Mr. Soan, a fireman to one of the insurance-offices, where her late husband had taken apartments, whose former jealousies could certainly not have been occasioned by her charms.