The Relentless Reader Recommends: The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Publication Date: June 2013

One day in 1855 Lucy Lobdell cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time it was over, she was notorious. The New York Times thought her worthy of a lengthy obituary that began “Death of a Modern Diana . . . Dressed in Man’s Clothing She Win’s a Girl’s Love.” The obit detailed what the Times knew of Lucy’s life, from her backwoods upbringing to the dance school she ran disguised as a man, “where she won the love of a young lady scholar.” But that was just the start of the trouble; the Times did not know about Lucy’s arrest and trial for the crime of wearing men’s clothes or her jailbreak engineered by her wife, Marie Perry, to whom she had been married by an unsuspecting judge.

Lucy lived at a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women. Lucy did these things in a personal quest—to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and to love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. Lucy promised to write a book about it all, and over the decades, people have searched for that account. Author William Klaber searched also until he decided that the finding would have to be by way of echoes and dreams. This book is Lucy’s story, told in her words as heard and recorded by an upstream neighbor.

He has left me without anything to live on, except one bushel and a half of potatoes; and now that the cow has gone, I hardly know what to do as I expect ere long to become a mother.
—Lucy Ann Lobdell, Narrative, 1855

I made up my mind to dress in men’s attire to seek labor, as I was used to men’s work. And as I might work harder at housework and get only a dollar per week, I was capable of doing men’s work and getting ten.
—Lucy Ann Lobdell, Narrative, 1855

She did not return to the woods, but, assuming the name of Joseph Lobdell, she went about the country making a living as a music teacher. While engaged in teaching a singing school at Bethany, Penn., where she was not known, she won the heart of a young lady scholar, a member of one of the leading families of the village. The two were engaged to be married, but the sex of the teacher was accidently discovered, and she was forced to fly from the place to escape being tarred and feathered.
—New York Times, Oct 7, 1879
William Klaber

A very interesting interview with the author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell:

48 thoughts on “The Relentless Reader Recommends: The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

  1. I can't remember where I first saw this but I knew I wanted to read it. I think it's so fascinating to find these past alternate lifestyles because every generation is so adamant that they were the only ones who had to deal with certain situations, especially when dealing with sexuality. Hopefully I won't forget to pick this up at some point.


  2. Ok, this has been on my wishlist on my swap site, but I have to ask, does the woman she marries know she is a woman at the time? I love the idea of another person in on the secret and compounding it with more secrets!


  3. I thought you might have this one on your pile 😉 I wish he would have been able to put together a nonfiction book about this gal but I can understand why not. There were too many missing pieces. He did a great job with this though 🙂


  4. I always count on you to come up with \”different books\” meaning not just what's on the bestselling or trending lists that most people read. Thanks for sharing a title I might not have heard of otherwise.


  5. OMIGOSH I love this book so much and I'm so glad that you finally got to read it. I'm not going to lie – I feel like I stumbled on some sort of treasure that needs to be shared with everyone when I read this one. To everyone who has this on their TBR – READ IT NOW!


  6. Jennifer, so glad you enjoyed Lucy's story. She is one of those women in our history who was really not known until this awesome book came out. William Klaber is a fantastic writer and he brought Lucy alive for me page after page.


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