Monday 22 August 2011

'Extraordinary Concealment of Sex'

From the Middlesbrough, Stockton & District Daily Gazette of 27th November 1869...

Considerable excitement has been caused in the colliery villages of Etherley and Toft Hill [near Bishop Auckland] during the past few days, by a disclosure that had been made by the death of a woman who has for the past 50 years resided in that neighbourhood and married two wives.  It is said that she came from Scotland 50 years ago in the guise of a young man, and obtained employment at one of the collieries at which she worked as one of the men for some time, and paid her addresses to, and ultimately married, a servant girl at the village inn.

After her marriage she relinquished working at the pit, and commenced to make besoms, yellow clay balls, and pipeclay rubbers which she and her partner vended in the surrounding villages.  They lived together for 28 years, when the wife died, and the reputed husband professed to lament her loss very much, but at length the grief wore off, and she married a second wife, with whom she lived for a number of years, but not on the most affectionate terms, and eventually my mutual consent they parted.

For some time the woman had lain on a bed of sickness, and had been dependant upon some kind neighbours whom, however, she always prevented coming too near her, and latterly, she persisted in wearing trousers in bed.

The other day she died, and when her neighbours came and were doing the usual offices of laying her out, the discovery of the sex was made.  The deceased woman gave her name as Josiah Charles Stephenson, and she had often been heard to speak of being heir to some property near Berwick-on-Tweed, but had no money to go and claim it.

Many strange stories are told in connection with this singular individual's history...

At which point the article frustratingly ends!

[this extract originally appeared in the journal of the Cleveland FHS of April 1986]

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