Not Belonging
On May 9, 1866, San Francisco’s leading daily newspaper published a front-
page story describing a “tremendous sensation” that occurred the previous
eve ning in the downtown district, caused by a woman dressed “in black doe-
skin pants, men’s boots, riding jacket, hat, etc., full masculine apparel.” Th e
woman was “leaning on the arm of what appeared to be a man although it
might have been a woman,” and her appearance drew “a mob of small boys,
some hundreds in number,” who shouted insults until restrained by police.
Th e police, however, did not arrest the woman, despite her violation of a local
cross- dressing law, prompting the newspaper to comment, “As the police ar-
rest every man caught on the street in women’s clothing, we see no reason as
to why the rule should not be applied to the other sex as well.” Th e next day
San Francisco police dutifully arrested the woman, a feminist dress reformer
named Eliza DeWolf, launching a court case and newspaper scandal that
gripped the city for months.1
Th e following de cade, in December 1874, San Francisco police arrested
John Roberts for appearing in public in “female attire,” or more specifi cally,
in the clothing of a “pretty waiter girl,” consisting of “a red striped dress with
train de mud a la Barbary Coast, a straw hat with a bit of lace and artifi cial
fl owers in it, a heavy veil which concealed his face, and a comforter which
Previous Page Next Page