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18 April 2024

Mowry Saben/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind/Jennie June: Part III - Comments and bibliography

Part I: early life

Part II: publications

Part III:  comments and bibliography 


Jennie June was the pen name of Jane Croly (1829-1901), journalist – and definitely a different person.


While our June’s writings were the earliest first-person accounts of being a feminine invert, the publication in books restricted to professionals, and in medical journals that ordinary persons never see, means that the example was not available to other inverts, androgynes and trans persons. Autobiography of an Androgyne cost $4 when first published in 1919. An average worker making circa $10 a week would be unlikely to spend 40% of a weekly wage on the book even if they were permitted to do so. Even more so the fairies in the Bowery where lodging could be obtained for fifteen cents, and a meal for ten cents.

Apparently, Saben/June chose the name ‘Earl Lind’ in that ‘Earl’ rhymes with ‘girl’, and from the noted singer Jennie Lind.  There is no mention of the noted Swedish female impersonator ?Lind? who had toured the US several times.

While the masquerade balls at the Hamilton Lodge did not become the so-called Faggot’s Ball or Dance of the Fairies until a new group of organizers took over in 1923, transvesting persons had been attending since the original Masquerade and Civic Ball in 1869. There is no mention of this in either of June’s published books, although in the second the Philhedonic Ball is mentioned – which may be another name for the same.

Accounts of Paresis Hall, other than by Werther-June, are less effete, and present it as a gangster-owned brothel pimping trans girls and boys in drag.

Saben/June was proud of their German. So why no mention of Hirschfeld’s 1910 Die Transvestiten in the second book? They had made a point of reading Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis and even Otto Weininger.

When Saben-June say that they have read Havelock Ellis, of course they mean Sexual Inversion, 1900. Eonism and Other Supplementary Studies was not published until 1928. This is unfortunate in that Eonism and Hirschfeld’s Transvestiten (which apparently Saben-June did not read) provide examples of the variety of lives lived by trans women at that time.

The other oft-cited example of ‘fairies’ or ‘tantes’ living with, cruising or even loving young toughs is Jean Genet’s 1943 novel Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs. When I first began to transition in the 1970s I met a few older trans women who assumed that I would live that kind of life. I – being a gaylib allumna and for other reasons – dismissed the idea completely. My problem with the Werther-June books is its assumption that if trans, that is the life. Plenty of trans women of Saben-June’s generation did otherwise. We recently saw the example of Stella Angel, born the same year as Saben, who was trans and sometimes in New York, without being a fairie. 

There is another aspect that alienates Werther-June from modern trans women. As Meyerowitz, 2011 puts it: 

“There is something else that troubles the categories that we routinely use today. In the book, Lind not only describes himself as feminine but also portrays himself as a baby. …When promenading the streets as a fairy, Lind insists that he is not an adult but a baby or ‘baby-doll.’ His fairy persona includes a loud and proud infantilism. It partly reflects Lind’s version of womanhood, in which the height of femininity is the ‘helpless cry-baby species of woman.’ Acting the baby also seems to be a way to try (not always successfully) to get young men to comfort, pet, and coddle a fairy.”

“Their craze for fellatio is only the abnormal survival through adulthood of the infant's feeding instinct”. Really? Freud said something similar – although he is not mentioned in this context. I am informed that if this idea comes up in modern gay pornography, it is a clue that the author is a woman.

Saben was of course a nepo baby who unlike the other fairies on the Bowery had a second life that provided an income and respectability. Some commentators have used Saben as a example of slumming. The ability to consult some of New York’s top doctors – for which one required both comportment and money – was also a priviledge denies the other fairies.  Some impoverished trans women or fairies did get reported on by top doctors - if referred by the police, or if incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals - something significantly different from a consultation.

Incidentally, a young and unkown German doctor had opened a medical practice in New York in 1914. His name was Harry Benjamin.

Saben apparently was not drafted in 1917 when the US joined the ongoing war. As he was then 47, this is not surprising.

It is ironic that the iconic androgyne of the 1910s was so anti-feminist, and insistent that women contribute nothing to culture. This despite taking the name Jennie June, who was a pioneer female journalist, and then the surname Lind from a noted female singer Jennie Lind. Saben wrote: “Women are quite as free as men. There is nothing but their lack of innate capacity to prevent them from becoming the great Poets, Musicians, Artists, Scientists, Philosophers, Inventors, and Reformers of the race” – this from someone who was educated at Harvard which did not permit women at all until the 1940s, and not propertly until 1970.

In 1895 in Oxford, Saben went bankrupt owing £388/16/6. This at a time when a standard working wage was £1 a week.

Comments from other writers:

The Little Review, November 1914, said: “The Spirit of Life, a series of nine essays by Mowry Saben (Mitchell Kennerley), is the kind of book that makes me savagely controversial and then cross for heeding it at all. Its platitudinous optimism meanders along through some two hundred and fifty pages. … There are indubitably certain good things in the book, but they are by Goethe, Carlyle, Emerson, Dante, Shakespeare, Whitman, et al.” Online.

Joanne Meyerowitz, 2011 wrote of the Autobiography: “In his own telling, Lind spends most of his days living the seemingly uneventful life of a college-educated, native-born Protestant, middle-class white man, a deeply religious scholar with aspirations to missionary work, but he also leads a secret “double life,” compelled by strong sexual longings — irresistible cravings to perform fellatio — that torment and distract him. In the late nineteenth century he becomes a flaneur, wandering at night through the poorer neighborhoods of New York City, dressed as a down-at-the-heels man, but with a distinctive fairy style — red bow tie, white gloves — and the assumed street names of Ralph Werther and Jennie June. This is a classic “slumming” narrative told by a class and ethnic outsider. In the story Lind pursues rough young men, mainly the native-born sons of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants, and he also shows a special fondness for soldiers, sailors, and other men in uniform. And he goes into great detail about his sex life, resorting to Latin phrases when the English might seem vulgar or obscene.”

Long Island medical journal. Associated Physicians of Long Island. Medical Book News. June, 1919, №6:

“The name of the author of this abnormal biography is of no interest. She, to accept his own classification, tells the inconveniencies, trials and sufferings of her unsocial condition for the purpose of securing some amelioration through legal recognition of his invasion. A woman’s mind, ways and proclivities encased in a body which is only one third feminine, and in particular possessing organs for which (s)he has no use but lacking an orifice for which she would have great use! helas, what a mess! Of course every person who is not normal is to be pitied, and so far as is consistent with running a world should be allowed all possible freedom. Whether the attitude of scientists and moralists toward the relation of the sexes which is so peculiar to this century, and bids fair to be its high light when looked at by the twenty-first can be made to include a benevolent view of congenital inverts, or ought to, is a fine subject for the expression of variant opinions. The author makes this plea — pity us, spare us: we are what we are against our wills. As for the substance of the book itself, — the reader will do well to have some apomorphine at hand. $4.00 is some price, too. A. F. E.”

Other Persons who knew Saben-June:

Jennie May Saben Burnap (1873-1971) 

Saben’s sister became Mrs Burnap after marriage in 1895 to Willard E Burnap.  Find a Grave names her as Jennie May (thereby suggesting Saben’s femme name of Jennie June). However the Mowry Saben death notices name her only as Mrs W E Burnap (her husband’s name). The Burnaps had one daughter, Ruth. 

Jennie was three years younger than Mowry. In her second book, p93, Jennie June wrote: “As for the genesis of my first feminine name, I chose "Jennie" at four. I have always considered it the most feminine of names. When I began my double life, I appended ‘June.’ I adopted that surname because of its beautiful associations,”

What Jennie May Saben Burnap thought about her brother riffing on her name is not recorded.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

A poet and playwright from Maine, who befriended Saben at Harvard. He won the Pulitzer Prize three times in 1922, 1925 and 1928, and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1927. Bisexual, never married. 

  • Scott Donaldson. Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet’s Life, Columbia University Press, 2007.


Clark Bell (1832-1918)

LLD, founder and for many years, editor of Medico-Legal Journal. Employed Saben under the name Earl Lind.

Prince A Morrow (1846-1913)

A sex hygienist who founded the Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, the first Social Hygiene association in the United States, in New York City in 1905. In 1910, this organization joined with various other Social Hygiene associations across the country to create the American Federation for Sex Hygiene with Morrow as president. He translated works of the French dermatologist Jean Alfred Fournier (1832-1912), and he became the leading publicist of the syphilis problem.

During the 1890s, he had opposed plans for the annexation of Hawaii on the grounds that its population had high rate of leprosy. 

  • Prince A Morrow (ed). A System of Genito-Urinary Diseases, Syphilology and Dermatology. 1893.

Robert S Newton (1857-1903)

Neurologist and alienist who was well known in New York for providing expert testimony at trials.

Alfred W Herzog (1866-1933)

Herzog, physician and lawyer replaced Clark Bell as editor of Medico-Legal Journal. He published and wrote introductions for both of the Werther-June books.

He lived at 123 West 83rd Street, NY. He was arraigned in May 1925 charged with felonious assault after rescuing a female neighbor, one of his tenants, who was being beaten by two brothers with a club. He used his gun and put the two men in hospital.

His first wife, 30 years younger, divorced him in 1928.

Died of apoplexy at age 67.

  • Alfred W Herzog. “Homosexuality and the Law”. The Medical-Legal Journal, 34, 8, December 1917.
  • Alfred W Herzog. Medical Jurisprudence. Bobbs-Merrill, 1931.

William Robinson (1867-1936)

Physician, sexologist and birth control advocate. Editor, American Journal of Urology and Sexology. Father of Victor Robinson. In 1919-20 the AJUS published several articles by Werther-June.

Victor Robinson (1886-1947)

Editor, Medical Review of Reviews. Published Werther-June’s "The Biological Sport of Fairie-ism, and had a contract to publish Riddle of the Underworld, the third part of Werther-June’s trilogy – although this never happened.

Robert Shufeldt (1850-1934)

Mycologist, ornithologist, army doctor and eugenicist. He worked as a surgeon in the campaign against the Sioux. He is credited with coining the word "paleopathology", the study of diseases and cause of death of decomposed specimens. He took many nude photographs.

In 1906 he examined and then wrote a paper on the fairie J W (Loop-the-Loop).

As a eugenicist he was obsessed with the purity of the white race. He wrote two book length harangues against black persons, The Negro: A Menace to American Civilization, 1907 and America’s Greatest Problem: the Negro, 1915. He also saw ‘perverts’ as an impurity that should be prevented by controlled breeding – but as most people were ignorant of their existence they should be written about.

He married three times. The first wife Catherine committed suicide in an asylum. His second wife, Florence Audubon, (granddaughter of John James Audubon, the noted ornithologist) left him after two months of marriage, accusing him of adultery with their Norwegian housekeeper, who would later become his third wife. Around this time he published a pamphlet titled On Female Impotency which included a photograph of a nude woman whom he described as a mulatto but likely was Ms. Audubon. This paper describing his personal problems, thinly veiled as medical research and meant to blackmail Florence, stated his affiliation to the Smithsonian Institution which outraged the Smithsonian leadership and led to his dismissal in 1897. Shufeldt refused to pay alimony following the divorce and claimed bankruptcy which was taken up in the US Supreme Court Audubon v. Shufeldt, 181 US 575 (1901). He took back many of the specimens that he had collected for the Smithsonian and later deposited them with the New York State Museum.

  • R W Shufeldt, "Dr. Havelock Ellis on Sexual Inversion," Pacific Medical journal (San Francisco), vol. 45 (1902), p. 20.
  • Robert W Shufeldt. “The Medico-Legal Consideration of Perverts and Inverts”. Pacific Medical Journal, XLVIII, July 1905:391-3. Online.
  • R W Shufeldt. “Biography of a Passive Pederast”. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, 13, 1917: 451-60. Online 


Excerpt from The Negro

Hugh Ryan On Shufeldt

Mitchell Kennerley (1878-1950)

From England, Kennerley was sent to New York to manage US branch of John Lane Publisher. Later he started own imprint. He published many books by the early 20th century avant garde including books about sex, some of them books by queer writers (including Wilde and Whitman). He published Saben’s The Spirit of Life, Saben wrote for his magazine, The Forum, and their 1924 correspondence in which they discuss homosexuality and inversion has survived.

There is no mention of Saben in Bruccoli’s biography except the The Spirit of Life is included in the long list of the books that he published in an appendix. In fact the word ‘homosexual’ appears but once – in connection with Wilde’s The Portrait of Mr. W. H.

  • Matthew J Bruccoli. The Fortunes of Mitchell Kennerly, Bookman. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.

Secondary publications:

  • “Local Failure – Re Israel Mowry Saben”. Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 2 Mar 1895. 
  • Robert W Shufeldt. “The Medico-Legal Consideration of Perverts and Inverts”. Pacific Medical Journal, XLVIII, July 1905:391-3. Online.
  • William Lee Howard. "Two Souls in One Body: A Realistic but Scientific Account of a True Psychological”, The Arena; 34, 192, Nov 1905: 467-9. An account of Jennie/Karl.
  • “Mowry Saben Dies in San Francisco“. 
  • Richard Cary. “Mowry Saben About Edwin Arlington Robinson”. Colby Quarterly, 9, 6, March 1972.
  • Bert Hansen. “American Physicians' Earliest Writings about Homosexuals, 1880-1900”. The Milbank Quarterly, 67, 1, 1989.
  • George Chauncey. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. Basic Books, 1994: 42–44, 51, 52, 54, 55, 59–60, 62, 77, 79, 110, 118, 187, 190, 291–292.
  • Anne Herrmann. “The Androgyne as ‘Fairie’: A Self-Authored Case History” Queering the moderns: poses/portraits/performances. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000: 143-163. Discusses Werther as one of six early examples of writers who cross boundaries and “queer the traditional spaces of modernism”.
  • Henry L Minton. Departing from Deviance: A History of Homosexual Rights and Emancipatory Science in America. University of Chicago Press, 2002: 19-29,
  • Melissa Norelle Stein. Embodying Race: Gender, Sex, and the Sciences of Difference, 1830-1934. PhD thesis, Rutgers University, May 2008: 217-235. Online.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. “Thinking Sex with an Androgyne” GLQ 17.1, 2011.
  • Aaron Shaheen. “Strolling through the Slums of the Past: Ralph Werther’s Love Affair with Victorian Womanhood in Autobiography of an Androgyne”. Journal of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLA) 128.4, 2013. 
  • Emma Heaney. The New Woman: Literary Modernism, Queer Theory, and the Trans Feminine Allegory. Northwestern University Press, 2017: 172-8.
  • Bjorn Klein. „Voyeurismus und die Macht des Blicks in den Sexualwissenschaften und der New Yorker Unterwelt um 1900“. L’Homme, October 2019.
  • Francisco Araujo da Costa. „Original Reviews of Autobiography of an Androgyne”. Medium, Jun 23, 2019. Online.
  • Channing Gerard Joseph. “Who Was Jennie June?”. Outhistory, October 10, 2022. Online.
  • Lee Lanzillotta. “How an ‘Androgyne’ Upended Gender in 1899”. Gay & Lesbian Review, November-December 2023. 

Find-a-Grave            Wikipedia(Jennie June)                  Wikipedia(Mowry Saben)

17 April 2024

Mowry Saben/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind/Jennie June: Part II - publications

 Part I: early life

Part II: publications

Part III:  comments and bibliography 

In 1907 Mowry Saben wrote a short newspaper article.  'Woman – An Age-Haunting Problem' which was published in the Detroit Free Press and elsewhere. In it he proposed that all of our culture comes from men: 

“Turn where we will, the objects of our veneration are all the monuments of man. From man have come the cities and the industries of the globe: all the great inventions are his; of him are all the religions, the ethical systems, the sciences and philosophies; he has created all the great poems, paintings, sculpture, architecture and music of the world.”

He further declared: 

“The woman of the Feminist is a fiction: she forms no part of manifested reality.” 

Six years later he expanded the same sentiments to a five-page article in Neale’s Monthly called simply ‘Feminism’. 

“I hold, indeed, that man's indebtedness to woman is a very large and deep one. There is nothing finer in Nature than motherhood; and feminine influence at its best, like masculine influence at its best, is always of a divine quality. But I will say that the history of the world gives no sanction to the claims put forth by Feminists. In her sphere woman is supreme; but her sphere is not man's. … Our Feminists have indulged in loud talk, but they have proved nothing and accomplished nothing. Women are quite as free as men. There is nothing but their lack of innate capacity to prevent them from becoming the great Poets, Musicians, Artists, Scientists, Philosophers, Inventors, and Reformers of the race.”

That was the polite version. Werther-June had already written in Autobiography of an Androgyne: 

“I have always felt that a woman should adore her husband so much as to delight in being treated as a slave, and to suffer gladly any abuse by her lord”. (p98) 

And there is no mention in either of their books of the ongoing campaign for female suffrage.

In that year, 1913 the editors of Neale’s Monthly described Saben as “one of the most vigorous essayists of our day”. They also published a long essay by Saben, “Broken Lights”, 78 pages in five chapters and seven parts, wherein he examines the ideas of his time and finds most of them lacking.

Saben’s major book under his male name was The Spirit of Life: A Book of Essays, which came out in 1914 and had a chapter on morals, and another on sex. In the latter we find:

“I do not object to sex-worship in itself. I have stood at its altar; have myself been a worshipper, and am, in a measure, one even yet. But I am not a Monotheist; I am a Polytheist. I have many gods, and some goddesses. My temple is the Pantheon. I bow low whenever I stand before a Holy Image. But I am a Catholic, and insist that there shall be no neglect of any divinity or saint.” (p138-9).

“The tenderness of Gautama was feminine, and was not Jesus very much of a woman in some of his characteristics? Goethe said that there was something

feminine in all genius, while Coleridge went further, declaring that the mind of a genius must be androgynous. Tennyson dared in The Princess to prophesy that the sexes were destined to become more and more alike” (p151)

“It will not do for the man or woman who indulge from necessity their hetero-sexual tastes to throw stones at the man or woman who indulge from necessity their homo-sexual tastes”. (p160-1)

A paragraph by Saben, published in Mitchell Kennerley’s The Forum, was reprinted in many newspapers across the country in 1915: 

“Our moral codes were invented, not to prepare man for heaven, or for Utopia; they were invented by men who were none too good themselves for people who were not much worse. There are great differences in human beings as to the amount of knowledge and wisdom which they possess, but there is small difference in regard to the amount of goodness or rascality that they manifest”.


1917: Werther-June was diagnosed with gonhorrhea.

In 1918 Saben wrote to a friend: 

“Germany did me a lot of good, a fact to which I am still bound to bear witness even in this terrible twilight hour of the ages. One of these days, if life and health are spared to me, you shall know all about it, for I am preparing the material for a book of confessions — ‘The Confessions of a Philosopher,’ I call it, using the word ‘philosopher’ in the original, or Socratic, sense. I believe that the book will be a big one, if I have all the courage requisite for my task.”

The autobiography - by Werther-June rather than Saben - was finally accepted by the Medico-Legal Press, whose new editor, Alfred Herzog, wrote an introduction. The book, Autobiography of an Androgyne, carried a publication date of 1918, but was not actually sold until January 1919. Only 1,000 copies were printed and it was sold through the mail [despite Comstock’s refusal of the text] only to “physicians, lawyers, legislators, psychologists, and sociologists”. Herzog wrote: 

“For, although I hope to fill with the Autobiography of an Androgyne a void; yet, had this void been recognized, were the want felt to have this void filled, my task would be easier of accomplishment. The void whereof I speak is the colossal ignorance of the reasons for homosexual practices on one side, and the pharisaical pulchritude on the other side, which, although knowing that homosexuality has been practiced uninterruptedly from biblical times up to the present, refuses to study its causes or its devotees; and while not endeavouring to make this world a better place to live in through its own abandoning unwholesome practices, vices and other actions which, although approved, condoned or ignored by the multitude —because these actions are popular —are condemned by philosophers and thinkers, yet will crucify those whose vices are much less harmful, because they are vices for which this pharisaical pulchritude has no taste, which therefore it cannot understand, and not understanding them, cannot condone.”

1918-20 Werther-June wrote and had published a series of articles in American Journal of Urology and Sexology, Medical Review of Reviews and Medical Life. They were mainly self-case studies, explaining to doctors what it was like to be Werther-June. 

Of particular interest is “Studies in Androgynism”, in Medical Life, 1920, which is Werther-June’s summary of the topic. They write: 

“As in this article I have to refer to the fact that I myself have had an extensive experience as a fairie, I think it wise to state at the outset that this line of conduct was not mine because of moral depravity, but because of irrepressible instinct, and that though my open career lasted twelve years, I made a gainful occupation of my propensities for only the nine weeks during which otherwise I would have been penniless. From the age of nineteen to thirty-one, obedience, to these propensities was absolutely essential for living out the scholarly life that I was regularly privileged to do. … Psychicly fairies have always felt that they belong to the female sex. They always adopt feminine names during the periods while they are under the influence of the sexual movings. Particularly they borrow the names of star actresses. With the more cultured, it has been a lifelong regret that they had not been born physical females, as well as psychic. As to the age of professional fairies, one over thirty is almost unknown. Nearly all appear to be between eighteen and twenty-five. Their career must be confined to youth. But they retain the freshness, slenderness, and litheness of youth-what might be described as "the small-boy appearance" – an abnormally long time, at least until the age of thirty. They are like women in that they have little tendency to baldness. … To sum up the natural endowment of fairies: they are not merely humans with a female soul in a male body, but they have, from the sexual point of view, never grown out of babyhood. Their craze for fellatio is only the abnormal survival through adulthood of the infant's feeding instinct. … As to the frequency of fairie-ism , I estimate that the raw material that is, the congenital girl -boys or androgynes throughout the world, one to every three hundred physical males. The writer has resided in fifteen different civilized countries, and in many of these countries has explored the underworlds of the great cities. The conditions as to fairies are about the same in all civilized countries. For fairie-ism is not due to example or moral degradation; but entirely to Mother Nature. At the dawning of adolescence, either because afflicted with congenital psychic nymphomania, or because thrown into intimate contact with a band of tremendously virile young bachelors, about one girl-boy out of every ten becomes extensively promiscuous-in other words a fairie. … Fairies may be divided into high-class and low-class. The former are for the most part recruited from the middle class of society, and have at least a grammar-school education, and rarely a high -school. As a rule, the high-class fairies are decided æsthetes. In embellishment of both their dress and their living apartments, most people would judge that they go to extremes. The author is the only university graduate he himself has encountered in the ranks of intensive fairies. But he has been acquainted with a number of such graduates who were addicted to fellatio with one or two trusted ultra-virile friends. The combination of high intellectuality with the frivolousness of the fairie is perhaps unique in the case of the present author. … The low-class type were born and brought up in the slums, and are much inferior in intelligence-not to say culture. While the high-class are subject to spells of acute melancholia in the realization of their condition of being misunderstood by their sexually normal fellows, and being pariahs, and from time to time even resort to suicide, the low-class fairie is perfectly contented with the niche in life which Mother Nature intended "him-her" to fill. Low-class fairies are likely to be deeply depraved. But this depravity has supervened upon their congenital effeminacy, and is something separate and apart.”

In addition to writing about Androgynes, in 1919 and 1921 Saben did some editing/writing work for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. This involved so little work that he was able to complete Werther/Junes’ next book, The Female Impersonators – which was published in 1922, again with the restriction that it was to be sold only to “physicians, lawyers, legislators, psychologists, and sociologists” despite Werther-June having written it in a popular style for the benefit of general readers. It contained nude photographs taken by Dr Shufeldt and also by Dr Alfred Herzog. 

It also contained an account of Columbus Hall better known as Paresis Hall, presented as 

“the headquarters for avocational female-impersonators of the upper and middle classes … In front was a modest bar-room; behind, a small beer-garden … A score of us have formed a little club, the Cercle Hermaphroditos. For we need to unite for defense against the world's bitter persecution of bisexuals. We care to admit only extreme types —such as like to doll themselves up in feminine finery.” (p146-156)

There was a third volume by Werther-June, Riddle of the Underworld, to complete the trilogy. However, it was never published. It was partially rediscovered in the 21st century.

In 1924 Saben spent several months in Montreal, but returned for medical treatment on an anal fistula. He told the publisher Mitchell Kennerley that some mistakenly viewed him as “an almost saintly individual”, and continued: 

“If I were to write an absolutely truthful book of confessions, telling what I have done, etc., they would refuse to believe it, and they would try to convince the public that my mind, at the time of writing the book, had become unhinged.” 

From 1926-29 Saben worked as assistant to Secretary of Labor James J. Davis with the title “Commissioner of Conciliation” – where his main job was writing the Secretary’s speeches, etc. He then ghosted for a senator for a year. In 1934 he became editor of The Argonaut, based in San Francisco.

In September 1950, Saben was hospitalized with heart, liver and kidney ailments, and died a few weeks later. Apparently, he was given a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type – however the inquest ruled that this did not hasten his death.

He was 80 years old.

An unnamed friend was said to have removed Saben’s personal papers from his San Francisco apartment after his death. They were never seen again.

Publications by Saben/Werther/Lind/June:

  • Mowry Saben. The twilight of the gods: an essay.  Unity Pub House, 1903.
  • Mowry Saben. “Woman – An Age-Haunting Problem”. Detroit Free Press, Aug 04, 1907: 42. 
  • Mowry Saben. “Feminism”. Neale’s Monthly, July 1913. Online.
  • Mowry Saben. “Broken Lights”. Neale’s Monthly, In seven parts, September 1913 - March 1914. Online: 1913 1914.
  • Mowry Saben. The Spirit of Life: A Book of Essays. Mitchell Kennerley, 1914. Online
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Fairie Boy. An Autobiographical Sketch." American Journal of Urology and Sexology (October 1918) v. 14, n. 10: 433-37.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Girl-Boy's Suicide." American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 14, n. 11 (November 1918): 495-99.
  • Earl Lind (“Ralph Werther” – “Jennie June”) Autobiography of an Androgyne. Ed., with an Introduction by Alfred W Herzog. The Medico-Legal Journal, 1918 (but not published until January 1919. Reprinted Arno Press, 1975. Digital Transgender Archive. Wikisource.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "Boy – But Never Man“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (March 1919): 97-100.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Sorrows of Jennie June“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (April 1919): 160-4.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Sorrows of Jennie June“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (April 1919): 160-4.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Female Impersonator “. American Journal of Urology and Sexology , v. 15, (June 1919): 241-5.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "Protest from an Androgyne“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (July 1919): 313-5.
  • Ralph Werther -Jennie June. "The Biological Sport of Fairie-ism." Written 1920 for Victor Robinson. Published in: Medical Review of Reviews (Anthropos 2) 40 2, (1934) 40: 185-96.1934).
  • Ralph Werther -Jennie June. "Studies in Androgynism." Medical Life (NY), (1920) 27: 235-46. Online.
  • Ralph Werther-Jennie June (“Earl Lind”). The Female Impersonators; a sequel to the Autobiography of an androgyne and an account of some of the author's experiences during his six years' career as instinctive female-impersonator in New York's underworld. Ed., with an introduction, by Alfred W. Herzog. The Medico-Legal Journal. 1922. Reprinted Arno Press, 1975. Digital Transgender Archive. Wikisource.
  • Ralph Werther. The Riddle of the Underworld, 1921. Unpublished. Online.
  • Mowry Saben. “Socialism and Freedom of the Press”. The National Republican, February 11, 1922. Online.

16 April 2024

Mowry Saben/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind/Jennie June (1870 - 1950) journalist, female impersonator

(This article builds on the October 2022 article in OutHistory “Who Was Jennie June?” by Channing Gerard Joseph Online.  I accept Joseph’s argument that Mowry Saben and Jennie June were the same person, and integrate the two biographies. June – in her Autobiography of an Androgyne and The Female Impersonators – slightly altered the facts of her life such as claiming to be from Connecticut rather than Massachusetts, and that she attended an “uptown” university (presumably Columbia) in New York rather than Harvard. She also altered her birth year from 1870 to 1874. This creates problems: if she says that she was 19, is this 1889 or 1894?

Pronouns? Some writers use he/she for Jennie June which is cumbersome; some use he/him as that is what June did in her own writings. I will use he/him for the Mowry Saben persona and she/her for the Jennie June persona.

AJUS= American Journal of Urology and Sexology; Auto=Autobiography of an Androgyne)

Part I: early life

Part II: publications

Part III:  comments and bibliography 

Israel Mowry Saben was raised in Uxbridge, Massachusetts in a strict Puritan family. Israel was his father and grandfather’s Christian name, and Mowry was his paternal grandmother’s maiden name. His sister three years younger was Jennie May. The father was a noted mathematician, who was disappointed that his son had no talent in that direction. However, his private education gave Mowry fluency in Latin, French and German.

At age 14 Mowry became ‘God-intoxicated’ and attended seven religious services a week in addition to college chapel. He was the leader of prayer groups, preached from the pulpit and spent two hours a day in private devotions. He then realized that he was a ‘female impersonator’ – he told this to his family physician, who did not understand the nature of such, and suggested finding a girlfriend.

In 1891 Saben attended Harvard, at first in the college and then the law school. He became a friend of the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson. He still did preach in the slums. He also became an assistant to the lawyer, Clark Bell who among other cases was representing a ‘cultured and moneyed fellator’ who was being blackmailed by a young man whom he had pleasured. Clark Bell was also the editor of the Medico-Legal Journal.

In the summer of 1892, Saben’s other persona, Jennie June, emerged for a ‘First Nocturnal Ramble’ to New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and then to the New Bowery. She met Red Mike for the first time.

Later that year, not sure what to make of his androgynous nature, Saben consulted three New York medical professors, two of whom were Drs Prince A Morrow and Robert S Newton. In her third book, Jennie June wrote: 

"The alienist Dr. Robert S. Newton was the third physician whom I consulted but the first who had any inkling of the true nature of my malady. His frankness put an end to my chronic melancholia. I thenceforth merely suffered from it at rare intervals. I ceased the worse than useless longing and praying for a different nature than it had seemed good to the All Wise to predestinate. The alienist opened my eyes. He taught me that the androgyne’s proclivities are not the depth of depravity that every one, even the two preceding medical advisers, had previously given me to understand." 

The other, unnamed, physician 

“gave me to understand as early as 1892 that my case was a remarkable one. This pronouncement incited me still further to keep a record of what life brought me with a view to writing an autobiography some day.”

In November 1892 and April 1893, Jennie June again did a ‘Nocturnal Ramble’ to New York’s Mulberry Street and Grand. Her ‘Fairie Apprenticeship Begins‘. She lived with Red Mike who took much of her money and abused her. She found a gig performing in a night club. (See ‘The Female Impersonator”, AJUS, June 1919). She gave out that her male name was Ralph Werther (from the painter Raphael and Goethe’s famous melancholiac). Saben finally gave up preaching and all church work.

In May, towards the end of his second year Saben was expelled from Harvard, possibly after the police broke up an all-male gathering in his room (Channing Joseph on Mowry Saben), but later other explanations were given: a ‘Nervous Breakdown’ (Auto p99) or “I was expelled from the university for being an androgyne, I came within an ace of suicide although believing that none of my family even suspected my expulsion; I having explained that my New York physician had ordered me to rest my brain on account of neurasthenia, which malady the expulsion had immediately occasioned as a matter of fact”. (II: "The Boy Is Father to the Man) or “But the faculty, through an accident, finally discovered it [female impersonation] and immediately expelled me”.(‘The Female Impersonator’, AJUS, June 1919) or “The wreck of my happy and highly successful student-career was now brought about by a physician whom I had consulted in hope of a cure for my inversion, but not one of the two gentlemen already named. He happened to number the president of the university among his friends, and whispered to him that I ought not to be continued as a student. I was immediately expelled.” (Auto p139)

“In a few weeks I was penniless and a shelterless wanderer on the streets in midwinter. I was driven for shelter to the Bowery, because there alone lodging could be obtained for fifteen cents, and a big meal of coarse and even disgusting food for ten cents.” (Autobiography, p141) Saben was living as Jennie June and the life of a low-class fairie. "The fact that I could now satisfy every day my instinctive yearnings to pass for a female and spend six evenings a week in the company of adolescent ruffians went far towards counterbalancing the many tears I had to shed when there was nothing to divert my thoughts from my condition of an outcast and an outlaw. I never coquetted on Sunday evenings, which I devoted to worship of my Creator at some mission.” (Auto p143)

Jennie also had adventures with soldiers, even visiting them at their army camps. This led to sanctions, leading June to stop using the Ralph Werther name when seeking men or approaching doctors, and using Earl Lind instead – although the books and journal articles that she published in the 1910s carried the Werther name.

One night Jennie met a group of men who took her into a groggery near Water Street in south Manhattan, and gang raped her. 

“I was at last rendered unable to be on my feet owing to spinal trouble, and to excruciating pain in the anus whenever I attempted to walk. I was compelled to enter a hospital.”

Saben returned home. His father’s antagonism had softened. 

“Of course I never gave a true account of our period of estrangement.” (Auto p158).

What happened next is discrepant between the biographies of Saben and June.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal

  • In 1894 Saben is said to have gone to England and studied at Oxford. He was there during the Oscar Wilde trials, during which he was obliged to petition for bankruptcy having liabilities of £388/16/6 after his father stopped his remittances (attested in the Jackson’s Oxford Journal). Somehow he was then able to travel to Germany and study at Heidelberg University.
  • June wrote (Auto p173, 168) that her male persona became an amanuensis to a millionaire septuagenarian and the two were five months in Europe.

By the end of the decade/century Saben/June was back in the US, and in 1899 finally started writing an autobiography re their experiences as an Androgyne – although it will be 20 years before it is published. 

"But in 1900, as soon as I had this autobiography ready, I submitted it to Mr. [Anthony] Comstock in order to ascertain whether it could be circulated. He was then a Post-Office Department inspector, with power to prosecute for shipping 'obscene' matter by common carrier. He read considerable of the manuscript of this book, and stated . . . that he would have 'destroyed' it but for the fact that I impressed him 'as a person not having any evil intent." (Auto, page 24.)

Werther/June arranged to be castrated (orchiectomy) giving the reason that he suffered from spermatorrhoea. Although in his introduction to the first Werther-June book, Alfred Herzog later commented: 

“My belief is, that, feeling as a woman, desiring to be a woman and wishing to seem as much as possible like a woman to his male paramours, he hated above all the testicles, those insignia of manhood, and had them removed to be more alike to that which he wished to be”.

As Saben he became an established speaker travelling across the country giving lectures on Emmerson, Whitman, Goethe, Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, Havelock Ellis, Krafft-Ebing, religion and freedom. One of these lectures, The twilight of the gods, was published in 1903. The lecture series segued into working for newspapers, both as an editorial writer and freelancing.

An approach was made to two more doctors in New York. The first was Robert Shufeldt, an ornithologist, army doctor and eugenicist. A person using the name Earl Lind, presented a manuscript to Shufeldt by the said-to-be recently deceased Ralph Werther – also known as Jennie June. Shufeldt described Werther in a July 1905 paper in the Pacific Medical Journal: 

“Ralph Werther throughout his brief life had, in all anatomical particulars, the form of a man, though bearing to some extent the impress of the opposite sex. His psychic nature always remained distinctly that of a girl, and that, too, of a very amorous and passionate girl. In fact, he was a girl with the body of a boy. Intellectual and educated to a high degree, she passed through the most remarkable life-experience imaginable, from childhood to the day of self-destruction, which occurred before 30 years of age.  During this time, the wonderfully interesting subject of this account kept a very full diary, and scores upon scores of letters, and other matters calculated to shed ample light upon the terrible cruelties and tortures he had passed through.” 

Shufeldt however did realize that Lind and Werther were the same person, and persuaded the same to pose for nude photographs.

Dr William Lee Howard also met with Jennie June, and wrote a 1905 paper about her, “Two Souls in One Body: A Realistic But Scientific Account of a True Psychological”, in The Arena, where she is referred to as Jennie/Karl.

Also that year, Werther/Saben was diagnosed with syphilis, and was seriously assaulted by a gang of boys. He considered taking them to court, but was advised not to.

26 March 2024

Lyn Raskin: Part III - Comments

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic 

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

If Lyn Raskin is still alive she will be 93/4.

One hopes that she did not come to a bad end, but overestimating how well ones passes and having sex with straight men is a dangerous game. We know of other trans women who were murdered in such circumstances.


January 1969-July 1970. That is certainly a fast-track transition. Several surgeons would not accept her as she had not done a 12-month real-life test – “capacity to earn, dress and live as a female” as Money put it. Burou did not insist on such.


I do not start referring to Raskin as Lyn until she started dressing as female. She gave the same name to her diary, which she addressed as ‘Dear Lyn’ – so it was confusing. In addition even after starting transition she was using the name Edward. It was Edward who contacted Christine Jorgensen. I use ‘he’ or ‘she’ to signify whether Raskin is doing whatever as Edward or as Lyn.


Irmis Johnson was a noted journalist. Much of her work can be found in newspaper archives, but there is no webpage – and especially not Wikipedia page devoted to her. There should be,


Reviews of Diary of a Transsexual are almost non-existent in either the press or in academic journals. The only one I found was by Una Nowling on the Transas City site. Una writes: 

"Lyn, as she writes of herself, is a broken person. She has no real career over the course of the book, stuck in the doldrums of being a multiply-failed scriptwriter and lyricist for the stage, living on handouts from her father and menial jobs here and there." 

In Los Angeles they speak of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams after the 1933 hit song, as many thousands flock to Hollywood with dreams of making it in movies, but only a few succeed. Two films that capture this well are Sunset Boulevard, 1950 and The Day of the Locust, 1975. Likewise there are many broken dreams in New York, London, Paris and Rome. The failed aspirant is an inevitable, indeed an integral part of show-biz. Lyn Raskin was part of this demographic. It is not an easy life.


In Joanne Meyerowitz's How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States there are two (only two) mentions of Lyn Raskin. On p162 in a paragraph about negotiations to reduce the cost of surgery we find: 

"In 1970, Lyn Raskin convinced Georges Burou to reduce his $4000 fee to $1500". 

And on p201 we find 

"The new trend in autobiographies continued in later publications, although none surpassed Take My Tool in pornographic content. In 1972 Olympia Press published Lyn Raskin’s Diary of a Transsexual, in which she, too, described her sex life as a gay man and later as a woman." 

That is all. Raskin's book is much more than that. Unlike Benjamin's other patients she gives little details of the doctors’ offices and the prices they charge.

Jeffrey Escoffier mentions Raskin in his Sex, Society, and the making of Pornography. He writes 

“In 1972, Olympia Press, the Paris-based publisher of erotic and sexually provocative books by Henry Miller, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Vladimir Nabokov, published Lyn Raskin’s Diary of a Transsexual, which described her sex life as a gay man and as a woman, after her operation.” 

That is all.


$20 for an appointment with Benjamin in 1969. Using this inflation calculator, $20 in 1969 would be $169 now. $4000 for surgery in 1969 would be $33,800 now; $1500 would be $12,700.


Raskin dismisses Dr Money’s requirement that she must “earn, dress and live as a female before undergoing irrevocable surgery” as ridiculous in that drag was illegal in New York State. Was it?

In March 1964, Felicity Chandelle/John Miller was arrested in New York near her home by an officer of the West 128th Precinct for a violation of Section 887, Subdivision 7 of the New York Code of Criminal Procedure which designates as a vagrant any person who 'having his face painted, discolored, covered, or concealed, or being otherwise disguised in a manner calculated to prevent his being identified, appears on a road, lot, wood, or enclosure'. The law dates back to the 1840s when farmers were disguising as 'Indians' to harass Dutch landowners in the Anti-Rent Movement. Despite having no criminal intent John Miller was sentenced to two days, suspended. This resulted in losing his job with Eastern Airlines after 25 years, because such behavior ‘signaled homosexuality’, even though an Eastern Airlines manager actually phoned Harry Benjamin and was reassured that the conviction in no way impacted on Miller's competence as a pilot.

In April 1967, Mauricio Archibald, en femme, having been to a masquerade party, was on a New York subway platform waiting for a train. He winked at a passing police officer who then approached and asked if he were a boy or a girl, Archibald replied: "I am a girl". The officer charged him as being a vagrant in violation of subdivision 7 of section 887. He was tried and convicted.

Section 105 of chapter 681 of the Laws of 1967, which repealed section 887, came into effect as of September 1, 1967, "provided that the newly enacted sections were not to apply or govern the prosecution for any offense committed prior to the effective date of the act".

However it was still the case that a bar or club could be closed and patrons arrested, simply because a single person, deemed to be cross-dressed, was present. The Queens Liberation Front was founded in 1970, and they campaigned and hired lawyers to de-criminalize cross-dressing in New York, which was achieved in 1971. The words "homosexuals, lesbians, or persons pretending to be ..." were also struck, thus decriminalizing gay clubs and parties. In addition, the still extant 1965 Anti-Mask: New York Penal Law criminalizing "the wearing of mask or disguises by three or more persons in a public place" was found inapplicable to those in drag.

On the streets before September 1967 and in bars and clubs before 1971 there were many trans persons dressing as who they really were. See my The four years leading to Stonewall – a New York timeline for a partial list.


In September 1969 Dr Rish spoke of a Dr Jones who required a record of cross-living before gender surgery. This was presumably Howard Jones at Johns Hopkins who did the operations on Phyllis Wilson and Dawn Langley Hall.


Many of us do not fit into the typologies that are proposed for trans women. Raskin was definitely androphilic, but as a late transitioner was not a Blanchard ‘homosexual transsexual’. She insisted that she was a Benjamin Type 6 - Transsexual, true, high intensity”. But she was not. A type six would not have done nothing for 16 years after being fed a line by the doctor in Miami. Raskin did not dress as female, did not seek out other trans women, did not seek out trans social activities, didn’t grow her hair in the late sixties when even men were doing so. She wrote: “I’ve always loved ladies’ clothing. I love the feel of silk next to my body. I've been wearing women’s panties for more than five years. They give me a sexy feeling.” (September 14, 1969). So did Cary Grant and Al Capone apparently – that alone does not constitute transsexuality.

I think that Wollman was right to initially assign Raskin as Type 4. After 16 years of not doing anything, the onus was on Raskin to demonstrate that she was trans.


Some of the trans happenings in New York in the 1960s that Raskin was apparently oblivious of prior to January 1969:

  • The opening and growth of Harry Benjamin’s practice with transsexuals.
  • Harry Benjamin’s 1966 book.
  • The opening of the gender clinic at Johns Hopkins
  • The fuss when the press discovered Phyllis Wilson, Johns Hopkins first trans operation.
  • Rachel Harlow winning the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant, 1968.
  • Siobhan Fredericks’ Turnabout
  • The Casa Suzanna events (although Raskins would probably have rejected them for their heterosexualism).
  • Darrell G Raynor’s A Year Among the Girls. (again heterosexualist)
  • The Lee Brewster organized drag balls for the Mattachine Society.
  • The drag performances at the Ridiculous Theatrical Company.
  • The Gilded Grape.
  • Female mimics magazine.
  • Carlson Wade’s She-male: the amazing true-life story of Coccinelle.

And in June 1969, The Stonewall riots.

However she does mention the Mattachine Society and The Boys in the Band – of which she read the script.


·         Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 162, 201.
·         Una Nowling. “Book Review – Diary of a Transsexual [Lyn Raskin]”.  Transas City. Archive.
·         Jeffrey Escoffier. Sex, Society, and the making of Pornography.  Rutgers Univerity Press, 2021: 171. 

25 March 2024

Lyn Raskin: Part II - transition

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic 

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

Raskin was looking for a writer to write her biography, and a friend suggested Irmis Johnson, a noted journalist whom the Hearst company had sent to Copenhagen in 1953 to meet Christine Jorgensen. This had resulted in five consecutive weekly articles in the the American Weekly, actually written by Johnson but attributed to Jorgensen. Johnson expressed interest and even gave Jorgensen’s contact details. Raskin as Edward phoned several times starting the next day, and Christine told Raskin that her autobiography was being filmed. During this period Raskin continued attempting his theatre career as Edward. Wollman told Raskin that she should start to live in female clothes

In May Raskin got a reply from Dr Money at Johns Hopkins. Money said that “I had to prove my capacity to earn, dress and live as a female before undergoing irrevocable surgery” (May 3, 1969). Raskin and Wollman dismissed this as ridiculous as thry thought that drag was illegal in New York State (unlike Maryland – where Johns Hopkins is – where it was legal).

After feedback from possible publishers re an advance or not, Irmis Johnson bowed out from the project.

The next appointment at the Benjamin clinic was with Dr Benjamin himself, as Wollman would in future be seeing his patients at his Coney Island practice – although Raskin did visit him there to have a mole removed. Benjamin revealed that a) Wollman had her down as a “Type 4 – Transsexual, nonsurgical” b) the pills that Wollman had prescribed were not estrogen but Dilantin. In Jan Wälinder’s 1967 Transsexualism: a study of forty-three cases, he had reported finding an abnormal EEG in 28% of a group of transvestites and transsexuals, and that an anti-convulsive drug had led to a cessation of the desire to cross-dress in some cases. Benjamin had tested this on a few volunteers, but Wollman had prescribed surreptitiously. 

Raskin asserted strongly that she was a “Type 6 – Transsexual, true, high intensity” and that the Dilantin had not decreased her urge to transition. Benjamin asked whether Raskin would still want to become a woman if she could not have sex afterwards. Raskin replied: “I said I wouldn’t but I understand once the vagina is created you can have fulfilling sexual relations”. Benjamin gave a subscription for real estrogen. (May 3, 1969)

The visits to Benjamin were $20 and the estrogen was $3.75 for fifty capsules.

At a final visit to Wollman’s office in Coney Island to finish the warts treatment Raskin expressed her displeasure at being classified as a Type 4, and over the Dilantin.

Benjamin transferred Raskin to his new associate Charles Ihlenfeld, and Raskin went in for hormone shots every second week. Benjamin wrote a letter to excuse Raskin from jury duty. Raskin finally started electrolysis having found an electrolysist who would do it for $10 per hour (most charged $20), and also started to let her hair grow. In September she bought dresses for the first time, and tried wearing them in the apartment. She finally had her nose job with Dr Rish. She spoke to Rish re sex change operations, and he claimed that he did not do them, but mentioned a Dr Jones who required a record of cross-living. A week later she wrote to Dr Burou in Casablanca to ask his prices.

In her diary she wrote: “I have definitely decided against having any New York doctors perform the sex operation on me. They require you to come to their office and have a castration done there — with only a local anesthetic. Then a month later they complete the surgery in a hospital.” (October 8, 1969). 

Two weeks after her letter, she received an answer from Dr Burou: 

“I received your letter of October 9. The cost of surgery and 15 days of hospital is $4000. You must send it before you arrive to the enclosed address. [It was a Swiss bank.] If you can come with another patient I can do the two operations for $7000. I have not a brochure or the itinerary for transportation, but you can find that in any travel office in New York City. You have not need to bring many things. Only your clothes. You can make operation of breast implant here, but is necessary that the Doctor see you before — and difficult for me to tell you what is the cost of the operation.

                                            Sincerely yours,

PS. Please if you think coming in April send to me a confirmation for reservation.” (October 20, 1969). 

In November Raskin wrote back and said that she could afford only $2000. 

For the first time, through a common friend, Raskin met with another transsexual, and compared notes. In January 2000 Look Magazine had a feature on transsexuals. Raskin felt chagrin in that she had approached them a year previously – however Look specifically featured transsexuals who had already transitioned.

Finally Raskin started wearing female clothing outside, but only after make-up sessions and shopping with female friends. Edward told the building superintendent that his sister Lyn would be staying in the apartment. Lyn met several transsexuals at a party given by her electrolysist. She was doing electrolysis as much as six hours a week. A friend suggested Maurice GirodiasOlympia Press to publish Lyn’s autobiography. Girodias was in New York after being pressured out of Paris in 1963. Lyn presumably did not know of his practice of not paying his writers.

Both Lyn and Edward had a joint bank account, and the manager, citing a possible discrepancy, insisted that both Lyn and Edward come in together. (May 7, 1969)

Edward had met Zelda Suplee twenty years earlier in the town of Homestead, Florida. Lyn encountered her again as she was now the director of the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF). Zelda was due to return to Florida, and said that she would visit Lyn’s father and explain things – although when there she was unable to do more than phone him. Zelda, Lyn, Dr Wollman, Constance (who had met Lyn at their electrologist, and had recently returned from completion surgery in Casabalanca) and cis actress Pamela Lincoln (who was purportedly seeking information about transsexuals and ten years later would be in the film Tootsie) were in a 28 minute filmed discussion sponsored by EEF. By this time Raskin had a job as Lyn, working from home doing sales promotion for a music company.

Constance had reported unhygienic practices at the clinic in Casablanca. However she had a history of lying; Zelda introduced Lyn to Bonnie, also back from Casablanca, who gave a much more positive account, and had negative accounts of three friends who had had problems after gender surgery in New York.

In June one of Lyn’s aunts supplied a check for $2500 (which Lyn suspected actually came from her father). She wrote to Dr Burou saying that she could afford only $1500, and that a flight was booked. This was accepted. Only then did Raskin apply for a passport – as Edward as stated on her birth certificate.

Lyn Raskin arrived in Rabat, Morroco and then Casablanca July 7, 1970. Three days later all was complete. She returned to her apartment in New York. She still had appointments with Dr Ihlenfeld, and also with Dr Rish as she wished to increase her vaginal depth. Rish sent her to Dr Roberto Granato, who found the urethra and vagina infected. She was in Rish’s Yonkers Professional Hospital several times: for an operation on the urethra, to have her ears pinned, breasts implanted and a facial skin-peel. She started having sex with straight men, usually without mentioning her past.

Lyn’s book, Diary of a Transsexual, was published by Olympia Press in 1971. We don’t know if Maurice Girodias did pay any royalties. 

Later that year the agony aunt Ann Landers was on the tail-end of the Dick Cavett television show following a pre-op trans woman enthusing about designing her wedding dress. Landers felt that that particular trans woman was inauthentic, and resented having to comment on her performance. When Patrick M McGrady, Jr wrote this up in his 1972 book, The Love Doctors, he added a comment from Raskin as a footnote: “They should not have had that sort of person. Ann Landers had a perfect right to be upset. It was like having a guy in drag.”

Nothing is known of Lyn Raskin after that.

  • Roland Berg. “The Trans-sexuals: Male or Female”. Look Magazine, January 1970. Online.
  • I Am Not This Body, with Zelda Suplee, Leo Wollman, Lyn Raskin, Constance and Pamela Lincoln. EEF, US 28 mins 1971.
  • Lyn Raskin. Diary of a Transsexual. The Olympia Press, 1971.
  • Patrick M McGrady, Jr. The Love Doctors. Macmillan, 1972: 165-6, footnote.

24 March 2024

Lyn Raskin (1928 - ) aspirant playwright, bookkeeper, secretary

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

(Citation dates refer to entries in Raskin's book,  Diary of a Transsexual)

Edward Raskin, originally from Pennsylvania, was the fourth child of a father who became a Miami hotel keeper. He did an accounting degree at the University of Miami, where he was seduced by one of the professors. He then slept with many of the other students, and also with guests in his father’s hotel.

 In 1950 with dreams of making it as a playwright and lyricist for musicals, Raskin spent three months in New York before admitting defeat. 

In 1953 when the Christine Jorgensen story was in the press Raskin realized that she was more trans than gay, and went to see a doctor in Miami. The doctor said that Raskin was a perfectly developed male, and a sex change woule be possible only if she already had ovaries. 

Later that year the 25-year-old Raskin tried again to make it in New York. Shortly after arrival Raskin decided on the name ‘Lyn’ for her other self, and from then wrote her diary as if to Lyn. Edward left copies of his plays with agents and producers, and worked as a bookkeeper. There were false starts re producing his plays, but nothing came to fruition. Edward did get lots of gay sex, but was frustrated in that she really wanted to be made love to as a woman. 

“My frustration was not curbed by sleeping around as l have been doing, so I went to Bellevue Psychiatric Clinic for a free consultation with a Dr. Cassity, who I call Hopalong Cassity. He was always jittery, even when I was relaxed. I had about a dozen visits with him. He felt that of all his patients I was the one who accepted his homosexuality more than the others. Most of his other patients were latent homosexuals. However, he also knew my desire to be a woman. During my last visit, the receptionist said to go into his office, but the doctor wasn’t there when I walked in. They attempted to locate him, for he had just stepped out of his office moments before I arrived. They looked for him in vain. They never found him. I have a feeling he was an inmate in their psycho ward. He was probably nuttier than I was.” (September 24, 1955)

Raskin completed actor training at theatre school in 1964 but was unable to get cast as an actor. In 1966 he was working as a secretary. 

“l have been working as a secretary since last November. You know, it’s interesting being a secretary. I’m in competition with all women and I enjoy it. I feel more comfortable competing with women than I ever did with men. Being a part of the female world as I have been these past years, working as a secretary, I realize how much we have in common. I find I think very female. I envy their clothing.” (February 9, 1966). 

But the job lasted only a few months, although afterwards he did temporary secretarial work.

January 19, 1969 Raskyn ran into an ex-trick who told of a friend who was transitioning, and finally Raskin realized that the Miami gynecologist 16 years before may have been wrong saying that internal ovaries were required for a sex change. The next day Raskin phoned around and for the first time found out about Dr Harry Benjamin who had been actively aiding transsexuals since 1957. Benjamin’s secretary said that he was not practicing at that moment as he was writing, but gave Raskin an appointment for the next day with “Dr Len William” (actually Leo Wollman) at Benjamin’s office. This was shortly after trans philanthropist Reed Erickson had terminated his subsidy of Benjamin’s practice, which had therefore returned to smaller premises at 44 East 67th St. Raskin commented: 

“Walking into Dr. W.’s office today was like walking into a chamber of horrors. It is a Park Avenue address but it is a dingy office. You have to walk down a long dimly-lit corridor to get to his office. When I entered the waiting room several other patients were already there. It looked like a movie set for a quack doctor's office.” (January 21, 1969). 

Wollman approved Raskyn for the operation, and said that it would take a full year. Each visit to Wollman cost $15, the initial physical was $35, the urine/blood tests were $43, and the operation would be $750. After her next unemployment check, Raskin purchased two copies of Benjamin’s 1966 book – one for her brother, and started dreaming about selling an exclusive about herself to a magazine such as Life. She also read Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography. Being unemployed, Raskin was reliant on monies from her brother and father, and so had to explain what she was doing. They spoke to their doctor in Miami who could find no listing for Drs Benjamin and Wollman, and suggested tests at Johns Hopkins. Drs Wollman and Rish (whom Raskin had seen about a nose job) pointed out the long waiting list at Johns Hopkins, but Raskin wrote to John Money anyway. The long waiting list was confirmed by a two-page article in the New York Sunday News that a friend clipped and sent. 

·         Jack Metcalfe. “They Change Men into Women”.  New York Sunday News, February 9, 1969:106-7.

19 March 2024

Mikki Nicholson (1978-2014) Scabble champion

Mikki started playing Scrabble in 2005 after discovering the game online. By 2010 she was coming first in 
tournaments including the British National Championship, which provided her with £1,500 so that she could compete in Malaysia later that year. In 2012 she was the clear winner at the 4th European Open Championship held that year in Malta. She was ranked as the fourth best Scrabble player in the world.

Mikki was living in social housing in Carlisle, Cumbria (population 74,000), where she was receiving psychiatric treatment, and had spent time as an inpatient at Carlisle's Carleton Clinic. After she was discharged, she was supported by a psychiatric nurse. 

She was subjected to transphobic abuse, and hoped to move to Newcastle, a city where people are more accepting. However she was warned that she would probably not be eligible for social housing there and she could not otherwise afford it.

She ended her life by stepping in front of a train.

  • “Mikki does it again”. Being Drusilla, 9 12 2010. Online. Online.
  • “Mikki Nicholson is 2012 European Open Champion”. Scrabble Malta, 2012. Online.
  • “Transsexual Scrabble player crowned as British national champion”. The Guardian, 2 November 2010. Online.
  • Stephanie Linning. “Transgender Scrabble champion killed herself after daily stigma and abuse”. Daily Mail, 22 April 2016. Online.
  • Mikki Nicholson. Remembering Our Dead, 7 November 2014. Online.



Scrabble is one of very few sports that does not separate the genders.