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11 January 2024

Stella Angel (1870 - ?) tailoress

This is the same person that I wrote about as a Patient of Austin Flint in August 2023.

The 1890s were a difficult time to be a trans woman. The first books on ‘transvestism’ would not be published until 1910 (Hirschfeld) and 1928 (Ellis). Nor were there any mutual support groups - although the secretive Cercle Hermaphroditos is said to have started in New York in 1895. There is no mention that Stella Angel met any other trans person, although the press several times compared her to the trouser-wearing Mary Walker.  And of course external estrogens were not available until over 40 years later.

She was arrested several times in various cities simply for being herself. The stories that she gave to authorities and to doctors vary and some are obviously falsifications – which is understandable for a person in her situation. 

She also gave different names: Mary Cullen, Miss Logan, Stella Angel, Estelle/a Angel, Estelle Date, Estelle Culton, Estelle Lawrence, Stella Lawrence, Viola Estella Angell. In addition she claimed that she had performed on stage as Violet Dell or Violet Deacon. Moreover, when arrested she was pressed for her male name, and gave variously Thomas Cullen (her actual birth name), Reginald Culton, Cullin or Cullon, Theodore Lawrence or Laurence.

I will most often refer to her as Cullen or Stella.


Special thanks to Ashley Sinnis and Walter Delong whose research in family and provincial records in Nova Scotia and in online newspaper files I am greatly indebted to for this account.


Thomas Cullen and his wife Mary née Turnbull of Little Habour, Pictou County, later of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, had 13 children. The child they had in 1870, they named after the father. The child had eight sisters and was frequently dressed by them in girl’s attire – to the extent that wearing men’s clothes came to feel awkward. He was also bullied at school as a sissy, even though dressed as male.

In November 1893, young Thomas visited Halifax – in male attire – and was hassled by members of the public on suspicion that he was female and the police had to intervene.

The next May, that person was again in Halifax, this time as Mary Cullen, and she was able to open a music shop. She attracted the attention of various young men, including a ‘city clubman’ who paid her rent for several weeks. However by August it had come out that her sex was maybe not as assumed, and the police became involved. Mary Cullen admitted that she had moved around the Maritimes the previous two years. She had attracted the romantic attentions of a police officer in St John, New Brunswick, and had worked as a servant girl or nurse in other towns in Nova Scotia.

Cullen acquired counsel, a Mr Bulmer, who instructed her to strike any doctor or officer who dared to inspect her body, and was asserting the right to dress as she pleased “as long as he does not shock public morality”. The counsel cited law that there was no code of dress, and that if there were “the bicycle girls on our streets can be arrested”.

Some of the young men who had expressed interest in Mary Cullen urged a cessation of the investigation, and Cullen was be sent away quietly, perhaps to Boston.

According to her later testimony, Cullen arrived in Boston 2 October that year. She enquired at police headquarters if there were any law re how to dress, and again was informed that if there were women cyclists would be stopped. Again she was popular with young men. She found lodging and work in a tailoring shop in Boston’s Back Bay as Miss Logan where she sewed coats. There was no problem at work, but a man at a neighboring business got it into his mind that she was a man after she winked back at him, and insisted that a patrolman escort her to a police station. There she was touched and bullied until she confessed to being a man, and was then taken to police headquarters. She explained that she was from Nova Scotia, and that if in men’s clothing she was hooted at and taken to be a woman. However there was no charge on which she could be held and she was allowed to leave.

On ruturning to work he was immediated dismissed for going away with a strange man, and leaving a coat half finished.  When she returned to her lodgings, the police story had preceded her and she was evicted.

In court Dec 1894, Boston
The stress of that arrest was followed by a period of sickness.  In December, on the advice of a fellow lodger, Stella entered the Temporary Home for Women, a Florence Mission, on Shawmut Avenue. She stayed four nights and was given three pounds of bread, one pound of beef and one pound of butter – to the value of 35 cents. This led to her being charged with intent to cheat and defraud in that the mission was for women only. She gave her profession as ‘tailoress”. It was put to her that she was really Reginald Cullen. She explained her position: “If I dress up in man’s garb, I am liable to arrest; if I assume a woman’s my chances are no better. I cannot see what I am to do.” The judge asserted that the case was one of fraud in taking a donation from a charity that was for women only. Bail was set at $200, which Cullen did not have. She was passed to the State Board of Lunacy and Charity for three days, then to have her hair cut short, be furnished with male clothing and sent back to Nova Scotia.

In May 1895 Cullen was on a train from Halifax to New York, but got off in Lowell, Massachusetts. She found lodging for the night, but suspicions as to her sex were roused, and the police put her in a cell for the next night. In court the day after it was established that there was no complaint against the accused, and she was sent on her way.

O’Dell’s Employment Agency in Manhattan placed Cullen, under the name of Estelle Lawrence, as a chambermaid in a hotel in the resort town of Mountaindale, Sullivan County. New York. References were supplied to the effect that Estelle had been a lady’s maid for three years to a fashionable mistress, Mrs Henry Paul, in Boston’s Back Bay or maybe Newton Heights. This went well, but Estelle found Mountaindale a dull place and went back to New York.

Estelle took to loitering in the Rambles in New York’s Central Park, flirting with any men who passed – even lifting her skirt. This attracted the attention of a park policeman who noted the unladylike nature of her behavior and arrested her. She was arrested and sent to the Mount Sinai hospital for an opinion on her sex. She then gave the name of Reginald Coulton, and repeated the claim that she had given to the O’Dell’s Employment Agency of being a lady’s maid in Boston. She also claimed to be from Ohio.

Photograph in Flint's paper
She was sent to Bellevue hospital and placed in what would later be called the Psychopathic Ward, where she was compelled to wear masculine clothes. Austin Flint, the noted Professor Emeritus of Physiology visited Bellevue and examined her. He found a scanty beard, the manner of “a silly girl”, a feminine voice and a good singing voice. He noted her disinterest in sex with either men or women. Flint returned the next day intending to make a laryngoscopic examination, but found that she had been discharged and sent to her home “in the West”. 

Stella was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, where, in the police jail, she was examined by Dr Schueller, who noted that her ‘parts’ were ‘covered with condylomata’ (warts). Again she was released.

In May 1896 Cullen travelled from Columbus to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she was again arrested, gave a male name of Theodore Laurence and spent five days in jail.

Stella was briefly in Philadelphia, and then returned to New York City, where she was presumably destitute, for – despite her conviction for fraud in Boston – she applied to a New York Florence Mission giving her name as Viola Estella Angell. She was examined by Dr Charles W Allen, formerly genito-urinary surgeon to the City Hospital. He decided “that the applicant was not a suitable subject for the mission; but, being destitute and friendless, and seemingly desirous of having the question of sex definitely settled, he was taken to Dr. Sherman's sanatorium”, which was in Yonkers. There he and a Dr Grandin saw her together “in consultation“, and a number of physicians who it was thought would be interested were invited to be present and take part in the subsequent examination”.

He later presented a paper on his inspection of her. His summary of her life prior to his meeting her is at variance with the account given above. His version states:

“In Boston he was engaged for a long time as a machine operator with a large number of girls in a factory, until, casually meeting in the streets one day a man from his native town, he was denounced as a man masquerading in female attire, and was placed under arrest. He states, however, that after he had told his story to the police, despite an examination made by the matron of the prison, he was released and went to Philadelphia, where he was employed as a female domestic and associated with women.” 

There is no mention of Stella being charged with fraud, of her arrest in New York and examination by Dr Flint, or of the arrest and examination by Dr Schueller in Columbus. Nor of the warts.

In his account:

“Fearing that he was to be compelled to put on male attire before leaving the sanatorium, he absented himself in the night, leaving behind a note, in which he promised at the earliest opportunity again to resume men's clothing and get along in the world as best he can”.

In March 1897 Dr Allen presented the case to a medical meeting, and wrote up an account for the Journal of Cutaneous and Genito-Urinary Diseases. Two months later Medical Record contained a longer account.

After that, it appears, that Stella managed to stay out of the press.

Dr Flint wrote up his 1895 examination of her for the New York Medical Journal in December 1911 but made no mention of C W Allen’s 1897 paper.

  • “Neither Man nor Woman”. Halifax Herald, 24 Aug 1894:6.
  • “Cullen as a Woman: He was so much of a success that he got all the young men in love with him”. Boston Daily Globe, August 24, 1894: 2.
  • “He used paint. Man in Woman’s Dress Puzzled Police. Objected to being searched and at last confessed sex. Worked Beside women in a tailor’s shop. None suspected identity but neighbor caught on. Culton says he has toyed with the affections of many”. Boston Daily Globe, Oct 24, 1894.
  • “Mr. or Miss? Man in woman’s dress works havoc as Station 4”. Boston Post, Oct 25, 1894.
  • “May wear what he chooses: But Reginald Culton must not masquerade for fraud”. Boston Herald, Dec 11, 1894.
  • "Mary Walker's Rival: An effeminate Nova Scotian Masquerades as a woman".  Montreal Daily Herald, October 27, 1894:5.  Online.
  • “Broke Hearts. Reginald Culton had a gay time. Had many devoted lovers while dressed as a woman. Boston policeman and doctor among them. Looked like a charming girl of 20. Received rich presents from susceptible youths”. Boston Daily Globe, Dec 11, 1894.
  • “No garb for him: As man or woman Stella gets arrested”. Boston Post, Dec 11, 1894.
  • “Stella Angel”. National Police Gazette, Jan 12, 1895 : 7.
  • “A man in skirts. Masquerades as a Woman with little success. Bluffs women but lands in the station house. How he fared in court – his antics”. Lowell Sun, May 4, 1895:1.
  • “Years in masquerade. Man arrested in New York City for wearing dresses. Had worked as a lady’s maid”. Waterbury Evening Democrat, Aug 10, 1895. Online.
  • “Reginald Culton’s woe: Magistrate Simms sends to the workhouse the man to whom no attire is proof against arrest”. New York Herald, Aug 11, 1895.
  • “Was flirting: and dressed as a woman when taken in by a heartless copper”. Saint-Paul Daily Globe, Aug 12, 1895:3.
  • “In woman’s attire: Nova Scotia arrested in New York”. Halifax Evening News, Aug 14, 1895.
  • “Stella, the new woman. Lawrence again arrested on masquerading charge. Pittsburg Officials puzzles when he told then the old story. ‘Sissy,’ as he was called in school, claimed a home in Boston”. Boston Sunday Globe, May 10, 1896: 1.
  • “In woman’s attire. This Montaindale maid turned out to be a man. Brought up as a girl – served three years as a lady’s maid, but his ex was not suspected”. Sullivan county Record, Aug 16, 1895.
  • “This man a mystery. He masqueraded as a woman and was arrested in Pittsburg. His strange story”. Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1896.
  • “Theodore’s woe. Once more arrested while in female attire. Said his name was Stella. Told same old story of life-long misery. Arrested several times”. Boston Post, May 11, 1896:16.
  • C W Allen. “A case of Psycho-sexual Hermaphroditism”. Journal of Cutaneous and Genito-Urinary Diseases, March 9,1897 :235, Online.
  • C W Allen. “Report of a Case of Psycho-Sexual Hermaphroditism”. Medical Record, 51,9, May 8, 1897. Online.
  • Elizabeth Reis. Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009: 63-6.

Reis summarises the account in Medical Record, but nothing at all about Flint’s paper.


  • Austin Flint. “A Case of Sexual Inversion, Probably with Complete Sexual Anaesthesia,” New York Medical Journal, 94, 23, December 2, 1911: 1111.
  • Edward Podolsky. “Transvestism” in Encyclopedia Of Aberrations - A Psychiatric Handbook. Philosophical Library, 1953: 531. Revised as “Introduction” to Transvestism Today: The Phenomena of Men Who Dress as Women. Epic Publishing Co Ltd, 1960: 12.
  • George Chauncy. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, , and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. Basic Books, 1994: 98.
  • Leila J Rupp. A desired past : a short history of same-sex love in America. The University of Chicago Press, 1999: 82-4.

Podolsky, Chauncy and Rupp mention Flint’s paper, but say nothing about either of Allen’s papers.


Stella’s lawyer in Halifax in 1893, a Mr Bulmer, was likely John Thomas Bulmer (1845-1901) a lawyer, librarian and social reformer who started as a Conservative, but later advocated for prohibition, female suffrage, equal pay and a fairer distribution of wealth; and successfully fought against the exclusion of black children from Halifax public schools and mentored James Robinson Johnston, the first black lawyer in Nova Scotia. Dictionary of Canadian Biography


Knowing of her arrests in 1894 and 1895, we can be sure that Stella’s claim of being a lady’s maid to Mrs Henry Paul (apparently a real person) was not true. In addition, either she equivocated or the journalists fumbled – in either case Boston’s Back Bay is right down town while Newton is a suburb to the west of the city.

In several news articles the male name is given as Reginald Culton rather than Cullen. Culton and Cullen are different names, and different families, although I am informed by Ashley that later there was intermarriage between the two.

While it seems that Stella was actually born in 1870, she often claimed 1874.

I presume that Dr Schueller gave Stella an ointment for the warts as they are not mentioned by Dr Allen.

Stella claimed that she left Mountaindale as it was ‘dull’. There is another possibility. Some male guests regard chambermaids as fair game, and so it is quite possible that Stella left before a persistent guest revealed her sex.

Columbus, Ohio passed a municipal law against cross-dressing in 1848. Was Stella arrested there under that law?

Halifax, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – unlike many US municipalities - did not have local laws against cross-dressing.


  1. I appreciate you so much for documenting Stella's story, thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for this! An incredible read.


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