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24 August 2010

Amos Westrupp Gibbings (1849 - ?) aristocrat, actor.

Amos Gibbings was educated by private tutors. From the age of eighteen he frequently acted female parts in amateur performances in London, chiefly for the benefit of charities. He played Lady Teazle, and Mrs Mildmay in Still Waters Run Deep; Mrs Chillington in The Morning Call; Mrs Honeyton in The Happy Pair; and many other trifling parts.

Amos and Martin Luther Cumming, both in drag, attended the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and other events. Amos and Luther and Stella Boulton and Fanny Park rented a room at 13 Wakefield Street which they used as a changing room, and for storing clothes. The landlady, Mrs Stacey, her daughter and some of the other lodgers were quite aware of what was going on as the two impersonators were quite open about what they doing.

Gibbings arranged a ball at Haxell's Strand Hotel (now part of the adjoining Strand Palace Hotel). Stella Boulton and Fanny Park were arrested as they left the ball in the incident that became the most famous cross-dressing trial in nineteenth-century England. Amos gave evidence for his friends at the magistrates’ court, but had moved to France and did not appear at Stella and Fanny's full trial. The newspaper reports of the magistrates' court describe his voice and manner as 'decidedly effeminate'; he spoke with a slight lisp, but clearly and with self-possession.
  • Peter Farrer (ed). Men in Petticoats: a Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers. Karn Publications 1987: 6, 9.
  • Morris B. Kaplan. Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times. Cornell University Press 314 pp 2005: 34-5.


Caroline said...

People forget that it is not that long ago that it was an arrest-able offence in Britain to cross dress in public!

Zagria said...

Actually, no. Britain has never had a law against cross-dressing as such, unlike France and many municipalities in the US. Trans people in Britain were either charged with homosexuality, or with the laws that anyone can be charged with: a breach of the peace or public mischief.

Fanny and Stella were charged with 'conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence'. Norma Jackson was charged with 'procuring another to commit a gross indecency'.