Happy birthday, Lucy Ann “Joseph” Lobdell (Dec. 2, 1829 – May 28, 1912)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. Lucy realized early in life that society was deeply prejudiced against women, particularly in the area of fair compensation for labor. So one day, in her twenties, Lucy cut her hair, changed into men’s clothing, began calling herself “Joseph,” and spent the next 60 years living as a man. Despite great persecution, Joseph refused to surrender his new identity, even after being arrested and tried for the crime of impersonating a man. Was Lucy transgender? Lesbian? Bisexual? An “opportunity transvestite”? Modern scholars/historians have used all those terms in telling the story. We’ll never know how Lucy/Joseph would have classified him/herself, had s/he been familiar with contemporary terminology. What we do know is that, in 1862, Lucy/Joseph got married to a woman named Marie Louise Perry, in a ceremony performed by an unsuspecting judge, making their union almost certainly the first same-sex marriage in U.S. history. Joseph and Marie spent many years living on the fringes of society, in the countryside, on the edges of towns, in order to avoid confrontations with the law and with disapproving members of society. Unfortunately, Joseph’s declining years were sad and tragic. In the late 1870s/early 1880s, Joseph’s family had him committed to an insane asylum, first in Ovid, New York, and then in Binghamton, New York, where he remained until his death. A medical report from 1883 survives, written by Dr. P.M. Wise (Assistant Physician of The Willard Asylum for the Insane), which makes it clear that Joseph, at that time, was quite coherent and in full possession of his faculties. He outlived almost all of his family members. Buried on the asylum grounds in Binghamton, New York.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.