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22 August 2012

Alice Baker (18?? - ? ) school teacher.

In 1910 Alice Baker was a school teacher in Harrah, Oklahoma. She left for Oklahoma City where a man paid attention to her. However he then reported to the police that she was a man. She was arrested for masquerading, but seized an opportunity and left town.

The next year, as James Arthur Baker, he was teaching in Segundo, Colorado, just west of Trinidad. Several of his schoolboys suspected that he was a woman disguised as a man. They took their concerns to the authorities who arrested Baker and lodged him in the women’s quarters at the local jail. At a court hearing ten days later, the prosecutor supplied evidence that Baker had gone by the names Madeline, Mabel and also Irene Pardee, and had corresponded both as male and as female. Furthermore Mrs Baker had deserted a husband and two children in Oklahoma. He also displayed items of female clothing taken from Baker’s trunk. However three physicians, who had examined Baker, testified that he was man, and the judge dismissed the case.

Baker arrived in Portland, Oregon in the spring of 1913. She arrived in men’s clothes but found refuge at the women’s Peniel Mission, where she explained that she had had to leave home in Idaho after a disagreement with her parents, and had traveled as a man with a fake moustache. Donations were made to her of feminine attire and a ‘transformation’ wig. There were even rumors that a local evangelical minister had proposed. However the wife of the Peniel Mission’s superintendent became suspicious, and a short stay in hospital resulted in the physician reporting to the superintendent and to the local authorities that she was a man. Baker quickly left town, on a ship sailing to California, with a man friend.

In late 1913 Baker was again arrested, this time in Kansas City, Kansas, charged with dressing as a woman. By this time she had a lawyer husband. The two had counterfeited gold certificates, and even travelled to Japan to exchange them for real gold.

*Not the Great War veteran, nor the Artie Baker who was jailed in San Quentin in 1916 before being discovered to be female-bodied.
  • Peter Boag. Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the Pacific Northwest. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2003: 82.
  • Peter Boag. Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011: 84-6.
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Boag discusses Baker in Portland in both his books.  In the first it is stated that she arrived in Portland in Spring 1913.  The second is more vague, perhaps to allow time for the trip to Japan before the Kansas arrest.

This is a remarkable reconstruction of Baker's life by Boag who had noted her stay in Portland in his 2003 book, and then found other  articles in different local papers and realized that they referred to the same person.

Baker is not listed as a prominent resident in any of the Wikipedia town pages.

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