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30 January 2008

Nancy Hunt (Bowman) (1927 - 1999), reporter and copy editor.

Ridgely Hunt was born to a family listed in the Social Register. He went to a New England preparatory school,. He was drafted at the end of the Second World War and rose to sergeant, although without seeing combat. Afterwards he graduated from Yale in English Literature, and then worked for New England newspapers, where he met his first wife, Constance.

They moved to Chicago in 1958 and he worked at the Daily News as a copy editor. He and his wife had a boy and two girls. In 1963 he moved to the Chicago Tribune and he became a prize-winning journalist, whose name was promoted on the newspaper’s delivery trucks. He was their war correspondent in Vietnam, for which he won four Associated Press awards. He specialized in masculine stories: he scuba-dived to wrecks on the ocean floor; he camped out with the Green Berets; he rode fire engines. He was regarded as irascible by his co-workers.

He was known for his negative comments about hippies and women, but by the late 1960s he was growing his hair long and wearing makeup. He had divorced his wife and married the family baby sitter. She sewed dresses for him and helped him with makeup. She wanted him to stay a transvestite. In 1975, a columnist at the rival Sun-Times outed Hunt, and the Tribune transferred her to the night copydesk where she became Nancy. After surgery at the University of Virginia, Nancy and her second wife divorced.

Nancy wrote her biography and appeared on television to promote it. She emphasized that as a man he had been a ‘devout heterosexual’, and film director Brian De Palma used this clip in his slasher movie Dressed to Kill, 1980.

In the early 1980s she married Wallace Bowman, Sr, and enjoined the staff at the Tribune to say nothing to him about Ridgely. In 1984 she retired, and she and Wallace spend part of their lives in Florida. Constance had to sue Nancy for missed child support payments, especially as one of the daughters has Down’s syndrome. Nancy maintained that Wallace never knew about her past. She outlived him, and spent her last years in a seniors’ residence in Florida.
  • Nancy Hunt. Mirror Image: the Odyssey of a Male-to-Female Transsexual. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston. 1978.
  • Linda Witt.  "Brave Ex-Reporter and Now Transsexual Nancy Hunt Looks at Her Lives as Man and Woman".  People, February 12, 1979.  www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20072932,00.html.
  • Marcia Froelke Coburn “Former Chicago Tribune staffers remember their late colleague’s radical transformation – from man to woman”. Chicago Tribune. September 1999.
  • Brian De Palmer (dir & scr). Dressed to Kill, with Michael Caine as Dr Robert Elliot, Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller, and Nancy Hunt in a cameo on television. US 105 mins 1980.

6 comments:

Lani said...

I had purchased her bio "Mirror Image" when it came out, but for me personally her story was not one I could relate to since I started the transition in my late teens.

Though I would still be curious to know how her husband never knew about her considering how long she had lived as a male, and then you have to wonder what became of her kids that they didn't let-the-cat-out of the bag about who she was.

Q said...

Nancy Hunt was a friend of my Grandmother and an important influence in my own gender variant life.
Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

I knew Nancy slightly, from the late 70s through the 80s. For a while in 78-79 she semi-adopted a teenage boy from North Carolina who wanted to be a girl, but the kid was difficult and not particularly bright and went back to NC. Nancy was relieved and happy to retire early and live a life of obscurity with her husband Wally, dividing their time between Sturgis, Michigan and Ft. Myers, Florida. Her kids never let the cat out of the bag because they seldom saw her once she left Chicago.

DifficultAndNotSoBright said...

Knowing someone slightly and not knowing the dynamic between these two people, does not in any way give you an authority to label someone as difficult and not particularly bright. That statement says more about you than the person to whom you refer. The dynamics between a teenager and a fifty two year old is difficult within itself. Drinking, as I know, Nancy loved to do, and her high expectations were a factor in that debacle. Look at the monetary abandonment of her own children. If someone has something to hide does that make them a true and honest woman? As you stated, never let the cat out of the bag. Does this not a liar make? As for Nancy, may she rest in peace. As for Anonymous, do not write about things that you do not know about.

portiapodsnap said...

Please, if you know more than I, go ahead and favor us with details. I knew Nancy for about a decade. Furthermore, I knew people who knew her, including coworkers and relatives. Do you have anything to contribute? No? All right then.

DifficultAndNotSoBright said...

Dear Ms. Podsnap, You were not there! I was and you do not know me! Thank god for the people who have helped me in my life. As for the people who talk trash, well trash is the operative word. Trash is trash! I do not have the time or energy to indulge you. So, I will not! I have lead a full and great life on my own without Nancy. Thank you! A story that is one sided does not make a true account. You were not there and you do not know me! You did not sit in the room as Nancy swigged down her drinks, in her panty girdle with her labia hanging out, while complaining about her life and me. Shall I go on?