December 29, 1852

Emma-Snodgrass1

Emma Snodgrass 

 

Wednesday Dec 29th  Julia here to day & cut the

waist to Susans raw silk & partly cut the

waist to my 12 1/2 cts Delaine  My family

& Fathers all dined to Olivers  Mr & Mrs

Whitwell called.  We were all invited to 

Mr Swains this afternoon  I did not go untill

past five Oclock  Mr Ames & Oliver Jr came

there to tea

 

In North Easton, Evelina and her dressmaker, Julia Mahoney, spent the day cutting up cloth for some new dresses – probably one of Evelina’s favorite tasks. Evelina also entertained a visit from Rev. Whitwell and his wife, Eliza. She ended up staying indoors for most of the day, only venturing out after dark for tea at the home of John and Ann Swain.

In Boston on this day, a very different woman on a very different path ended up getting herself arrested, and not for the first time. The petite young perpetrator was Emma Snodgrass, a native of New York City. According to newspaper accounts of the day, her crime was “donning the breeches.” She was dressed in pants and a frock coat, trying to pass herself off as a man.

Her alias was George Green, and she was earning her living, at least for a time, as a sales clerk at John Simmons & Co., a clothier in the city. Newspapers as far away as California seized on the novelty of this aberrant behavior, and published various accounts of Miss Snodgrass’s conduct. What sources they might have used for their stories goes uncited, but nonetheless they delighted in reciting such tidbits as: “Snodgrass used to circulate in all the drinking houses, made several violent attempts to talk ‘horse’ and do other things for which ‘fast boys’ are noted.”*

The shock that Emma Snodgrass’s behavior generated in 1852 demonstrates how times have changed. In 2015, we might see Snodgrass’s cross-dressing as suggestive of what we now call gender identity disorder. Then, it was more likely understood as willful rebellion against the strict division of the roles of the sexes. Snodgrass and others – and there were others – had an impossible time being taken seriously. Many people probably believed that Emma Snodgrass’s parents hadn’t raised her properly.

What did Evelina think?

 

*New York Daily Times, November 30, 1852

 

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