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09 December 2010

Ernest Wood (1900 – 1924) cellarman, waiter.

Ernest Wood was taken on by Pinoli's Italian restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho, London, when he was 14. He worked first as a cellarman, as which he had to roll heavy barrels and catch rats. and then as a waiter.

He shared a bedroom with a half-dozen workmates. Wood was described as a dandy, and was said to have three girlfriends whom he would take to the cinema or to the variety theatre. He also bred dogs. His workmates made fun of his light voice, and Ernest joked back that he didn't shave either.

In 1923 he moved to the Astoria hotel as a waiter, a job at which he was very successful.

Wood died of consumption at age 24, which led to the discovery that he was female bodied. No family came forward, and officials at the infirmary were at a loss how to bury the body as his female name was unknown. "Miss Ernest Wood" was suggested.
  • The News of the World. 18 May 1924: 9; 22 May 1924:4.
  • Wigan Observer and District Advertiser. 20 May 1924: 2,16
  • Illustrated Police News. 22 May 1924: 4.
  • Alison Oram. Her Husband was a Woman!: Women's gender-crossing in modern British popular culture. Routledge, 2007: 19, 23-6, 46.

1 comment:

Emily said...

I find that so sad! Why was the "Miss" on the gravestone even necessary? The typical attitude of society to trans people for centuries: Take every chance to knock us down and put us in our place.

Unfortunately, I don't think a lot's changed in this respect... I can imagine someone making exactly the same decision even now.

Ernest sounds like a fascinating character. What a shame that he should die so young.