Thursday
Mar212019

Huntress

Jacqueline Doyle


 

Lucy Ann Lobdell (1829-1912)

Lucy Ann Lobdell was a girl of seventeen when her husband abandoned her and she began to dress as a man, roaming the wilderness in Pennsylvania, New York, and Minnesota, supporting herself as a hunter. A.C. Smith, in The History of Meeker County, reported that "at the age of twelve she could [already] outshoot any of the men," and by the "age of sixteen she had killed numerous deer, and an absence of two or three days alone in the woods was for her not an uncommon thing." As an adult, Lucy "had hand-to-hand contests with both wounded deer and bear, as ugly seams and scars upon her body amply testified." She was in her forties when she fell in love with Marie Louise Perry, a young woman who also had been deserted by her husband. The two of them travelled as a married couple for many years, living in caves, subsisting on roots and berries and game killed by Lucy. When they were arrested as vagrants and imprisoned in Stroudsberg, the jailors discovered that Lucy was a woman and sent her to Willard State Mental Hospital in upstate New York. Marie Louise begged in vain for her release.  

Lucy's brother offered testimony "in the matter of Lucy Ann Slater a Supposed Lunatic" when she was committed: "She has been insane for more than ten years. . . . She becomes quarrelsome and unmanageable at times and threatens to burn the buildings and runs off in the woods alone. She has a woman who she claims is her wife—this woman is also insane." Others who knew her less well offered corroborating testimony. Harry Walsh claimed that he'd already known she was "crazy" some twenty to twenty-five years before when he saw her in her father's saw mill, dressed as a man. She was "attempting to saw," he said, and when he met her many years later Lucy "had a gun and pretended to be hunting." Moreover she was accompanied by a woman. "The woman was crazy. They both claimed that they were man and wife and pretended to love each other and that they could not bear to be separated."

The testimony of five men pretending to be experts on normal female behavior was sufficient for Lucy to be deemed a lunatic and incarcerated in hospitals for the rest of her life. Never again would she be safe from prying eyes and fingers. "I have been unable to discover any abnormality of the genitals," reports Assistant Physician P.M. Wise, M.D., "except an enlarged clitoria covered by a large relaxed praeputium. . . . During the two years she has been under observation in the Willard Asylum she has had repeated paroxysmal attacks of erotomania and exhilaration. . . . she is fast losing her memory and capacity for coherent discourse."

Actaeon was transformed into a stag and torn apart by his own hunting dogs after coming upon the huntress-goddess Diana naked in the woods. Was there no punishment for the jailors and doctors who scrutinized the huntress's naked body and labeled her an aberration? 

 

 

 

Source: The College at Oneonta has archived accounts of her life in the History of Meeker County and New York Times, testimony when she was committed to Willard, and Wise's Case of Sexual Perversion (1883). Their Lucy Ann Lobdell site is no longer available online.