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17 April 2024

Mowry Saben/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind/Jennie June: Part II - publications

 Part I: early life

Part II: publications

Part III:  comments and bibliography 

In 1907 Mowry Saben wrote a short newspaper article.  'Woman – An Age-Haunting Problem' which was published in the Detroit Free Press and elsewhere. In it he proposed that all of our culture comes from men: 

“Turn where we will, the objects of our veneration are all the monuments of man. From man have come the cities and the industries of the globe: all the great inventions are his; of him are all the religions, the ethical systems, the sciences and philosophies; he has created all the great poems, paintings, sculpture, architecture and music of the world.”

He further declared: 

“The woman of the Feminist is a fiction: she forms no part of manifested reality.” 

Six years later he expanded the same sentiments to a five-page article in Neale’s Monthly called simply ‘Feminism’. 

“I hold, indeed, that man's indebtedness to woman is a very large and deep one. There is nothing finer in Nature than motherhood; and feminine influence at its best, like masculine influence at its best, is always of a divine quality. But I will say that the history of the world gives no sanction to the claims put forth by Feminists. In her sphere woman is supreme; but her sphere is not man's. … Our Feminists have indulged in loud talk, but they have proved nothing and accomplished nothing. Women are quite as free as men. There is nothing but their lack of innate capacity to prevent them from becoming the great Poets, Musicians, Artists, Scientists, Philosophers, Inventors, and Reformers of the race.”

That was the polite version. Werther-June had already written in Autobiography of an Androgyne: 

“I have always felt that a woman should adore her husband so much as to delight in being treated as a slave, and to suffer gladly any abuse by her lord”. (p98) 

And there is no mention in either of their books of the ongoing campaign for female suffrage.

In that year, 1913 the editors of Neale’s Monthly described Saben as “one of the most vigorous essayists of our day”. They also published a long essay by Saben, “Broken Lights”, 78 pages in five chapters and seven parts, wherein he examines the ideas of his time and finds most of them lacking.

Saben’s major book under his male name was The Spirit of Life: A Book of Essays, which came out in 1914 and had a chapter on morals, and another on sex. In the latter we find:

“I do not object to sex-worship in itself. I have stood at its altar; have myself been a worshipper, and am, in a measure, one even yet. But I am not a Monotheist; I am a Polytheist. I have many gods, and some goddesses. My temple is the Pantheon. I bow low whenever I stand before a Holy Image. But I am a Catholic, and insist that there shall be no neglect of any divinity or saint.” (p138-9).

“The tenderness of Gautama was feminine, and was not Jesus very much of a woman in some of his characteristics? Goethe said that there was something

feminine in all genius, while Coleridge went further, declaring that the mind of a genius must be androgynous. Tennyson dared in The Princess to prophesy that the sexes were destined to become more and more alike” (p151)

“It will not do for the man or woman who indulge from necessity their hetero-sexual tastes to throw stones at the man or woman who indulge from necessity their homo-sexual tastes”. (p160-1)

A paragraph by Saben, published in Mitchell Kennerley’s The Forum, was reprinted in many newspapers across the country in 1915: 

“Our moral codes were invented, not to prepare man for heaven, or for Utopia; they were invented by men who were none too good themselves for people who were not much worse. There are great differences in human beings as to the amount of knowledge and wisdom which they possess, but there is small difference in regard to the amount of goodness or rascality that they manifest”.


1917: Werther-June was diagnosed with gonhorrhea.

In 1918 Saben wrote to a friend: 

“Germany did me a lot of good, a fact to which I am still bound to bear witness even in this terrible twilight hour of the ages. One of these days, if life and health are spared to me, you shall know all about it, for I am preparing the material for a book of confessions — ‘The Confessions of a Philosopher,’ I call it, using the word ‘philosopher’ in the original, or Socratic, sense. I believe that the book will be a big one, if I have all the courage requisite for my task.”

The autobiography - by Werther-June rather than Saben - was finally accepted by the Medico-Legal Press, whose new editor, Alfred Herzog, wrote an introduction. The book, Autobiography of an Androgyne, carried a publication date of 1918, but was not actually sold until January 1919. Only 1,000 copies were printed and it was sold through the mail [despite Comstock’s refusal of the text] only to “physicians, lawyers, legislators, psychologists, and sociologists”. Herzog wrote: 

“For, although I hope to fill with the Autobiography of an Androgyne a void; yet, had this void been recognized, were the want felt to have this void filled, my task would be easier of accomplishment. The void whereof I speak is the colossal ignorance of the reasons for homosexual practices on one side, and the pharisaical pulchritude on the other side, which, although knowing that homosexuality has been practiced uninterruptedly from biblical times up to the present, refuses to study its causes or its devotees; and while not endeavouring to make this world a better place to live in through its own abandoning unwholesome practices, vices and other actions which, although approved, condoned or ignored by the multitude —because these actions are popular —are condemned by philosophers and thinkers, yet will crucify those whose vices are much less harmful, because they are vices for which this pharisaical pulchritude has no taste, which therefore it cannot understand, and not understanding them, cannot condone.”

1918-20 Werther-June wrote and had published a series of articles in American Journal of Urology and Sexology, Medical Review of Reviews and Medical Life. They were mainly self-case studies, explaining to doctors what it was like to be Werther-June. 

Of particular interest is “Studies in Androgynism”, in Medical Life, 1920, which is Werther-June’s summary of the topic. They write: 

“As in this article I have to refer to the fact that I myself have had an extensive experience as a fairie, I think it wise to state at the outset that this line of conduct was not mine because of moral depravity, but because of irrepressible instinct, and that though my open career lasted twelve years, I made a gainful occupation of my propensities for only the nine weeks during which otherwise I would have been penniless. From the age of nineteen to thirty-one, obedience, to these propensities was absolutely essential for living out the scholarly life that I was regularly privileged to do. … Psychicly fairies have always felt that they belong to the female sex. They always adopt feminine names during the periods while they are under the influence of the sexual movings. Particularly they borrow the names of star actresses. With the more cultured, it has been a lifelong regret that they had not been born physical females, as well as psychic. As to the age of professional fairies, one over thirty is almost unknown. Nearly all appear to be between eighteen and twenty-five. Their career must be confined to youth. But they retain the freshness, slenderness, and litheness of youth-what might be described as "the small-boy appearance" – an abnormally long time, at least until the age of thirty. They are like women in that they have little tendency to baldness. … To sum up the natural endowment of fairies: they are not merely humans with a female soul in a male body, but they have, from the sexual point of view, never grown out of babyhood. Their craze for fellatio is only the abnormal survival through adulthood of the infant's feeding instinct. … As to the frequency of fairie-ism , I estimate that the raw material that is, the congenital girl -boys or androgynes throughout the world, one to every three hundred physical males. The writer has resided in fifteen different civilized countries, and in many of these countries has explored the underworlds of the great cities. The conditions as to fairies are about the same in all civilized countries. For fairie-ism is not due to example or moral degradation; but entirely to Mother Nature. At the dawning of adolescence, either because afflicted with congenital psychic nymphomania, or because thrown into intimate contact with a band of tremendously virile young bachelors, about one girl-boy out of every ten becomes extensively promiscuous-in other words a fairie. … Fairies may be divided into high-class and low-class. The former are for the most part recruited from the middle class of society, and have at least a grammar-school education, and rarely a high -school. As a rule, the high-class fairies are decided æsthetes. In embellishment of both their dress and their living apartments, most people would judge that they go to extremes. The author is the only university graduate he himself has encountered in the ranks of intensive fairies. But he has been acquainted with a number of such graduates who were addicted to fellatio with one or two trusted ultra-virile friends. The combination of high intellectuality with the frivolousness of the fairie is perhaps unique in the case of the present author. … The low-class type were born and brought up in the slums, and are much inferior in intelligence-not to say culture. While the high-class are subject to spells of acute melancholia in the realization of their condition of being misunderstood by their sexually normal fellows, and being pariahs, and from time to time even resort to suicide, the low-class fairie is perfectly contented with the niche in life which Mother Nature intended "him-her" to fill. Low-class fairies are likely to be deeply depraved. But this depravity has supervened upon their congenital effeminacy, and is something separate and apart.”

In addition to writing about Androgynes, in 1919 and 1921 Saben did some editing/writing work for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. This involved so little work that he was able to complete Werther/Junes’ next book, The Female Impersonators – which was published in 1922, again with the restriction that it was to be sold only to “physicians, lawyers, legislators, psychologists, and sociologists” despite Werther-June having written it in a popular style for the benefit of general readers. It contained nude photographs taken by Dr Shufeldt and also by Dr Alfred Herzog. 

It also contained an account of Columbus Hall better known as Paresis Hall, presented as 

“the headquarters for avocational female-impersonators of the upper and middle classes … In front was a modest bar-room; behind, a small beer-garden … A score of us have formed a little club, the Cercle Hermaphroditos. For we need to unite for defense against the world's bitter persecution of bisexuals. We care to admit only extreme types —such as like to doll themselves up in feminine finery.” (p146-156)

There was a third volume by Werther-June, Riddle of the Underworld, to complete the trilogy. However, it was never published. It was partially rediscovered in the 21st century.

In 1924 Saben spent several months in Montreal, but returned for medical treatment on an anal fistula. He told the publisher Mitchell Kennerley that some mistakenly viewed him as “an almost saintly individual”, and continued: 

“If I were to write an absolutely truthful book of confessions, telling what I have done, etc., they would refuse to believe it, and they would try to convince the public that my mind, at the time of writing the book, had become unhinged.” 

From 1926-29 Saben worked as assistant to Secretary of Labor James J. Davis with the title “Commissioner of Conciliation” – where his main job was writing the Secretary’s speeches, etc. He then ghosted for a senator for a year. In 1934 he became editor of The Argonaut, based in San Francisco.

In September 1950, Saben was hospitalized with heart, liver and kidney ailments, and died a few weeks later. Apparently, he was given a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type – however the inquest ruled that this did not hasten his death.

He was 80 years old.

An unnamed friend was said to have removed Saben’s personal papers from his San Francisco apartment after his death. They were never seen again.

Publications by Saben/Werther/Lind/June:

  • Mowry Saben. The twilight of the gods: an essay.  Unity Pub House, 1903.
  • Mowry Saben. “Woman – An Age-Haunting Problem”. Detroit Free Press, Aug 04, 1907: 42. 
  • Mowry Saben. “Feminism”. Neale’s Monthly, July 1913. Online.
  • Mowry Saben. “Broken Lights”. Neale’s Monthly, In seven parts, September 1913 - March 1914. Online: 1913 1914.
  • Mowry Saben. The Spirit of Life: A Book of Essays. Mitchell Kennerley, 1914. Online
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Fairie Boy. An Autobiographical Sketch." American Journal of Urology and Sexology (October 1918) v. 14, n. 10: 433-37.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Girl-Boy's Suicide." American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 14, n. 11 (November 1918): 495-99.
  • Earl Lind (“Ralph Werther” – “Jennie June”) Autobiography of an Androgyne. Ed., with an Introduction by Alfred W Herzog. The Medico-Legal Journal, 1918 (but not published until January 1919. Reprinted Arno Press, 1975. Digital Transgender Archive. Wikisource.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "Boy – But Never Man“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (March 1919): 97-100.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Sorrows of Jennie June“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (April 1919): 160-4.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Sorrows of Jennie June“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (April 1919): 160-4.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "The Female Impersonator “. American Journal of Urology and Sexology , v. 15, (June 1919): 241-5.
  • Ralph Werther --Jennie June. "Protest from an Androgyne“. American Journal of Urology and Sexology, v. 15, (July 1919): 313-5.
  • Ralph Werther -Jennie June. "The Biological Sport of Fairie-ism." Written 1920 for Victor Robinson. Published in: Medical Review of Reviews (Anthropos 2) 40 2, (1934) 40: 185-96.1934).
  • Ralph Werther -Jennie June. "Studies in Androgynism." Medical Life (NY), (1920) 27: 235-46. Online.
  • Ralph Werther-Jennie June (“Earl Lind”). The Female Impersonators; a sequel to the Autobiography of an androgyne and an account of some of the author's experiences during his six years' career as instinctive female-impersonator in New York's underworld. Ed., with an introduction, by Alfred W. Herzog. The Medico-Legal Journal. 1922. Reprinted Arno Press, 1975. Digital Transgender Archive. Wikisource.
  • Ralph Werther. The Riddle of the Underworld, 1921. Unpublished. Online.
  • Mowry Saben. “Socialism and Freedom of the Press”. The National Republican, February 11, 1922. Online.

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