Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2016-10-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past
by Terri Schlichenmeyer

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

by Peter Boag $39.95; Univ. of Calif. Press; 257 pages

The outfit was beyond your budget.

It was impractical, too, because you'd probably never wear it. It looked great on, it fit just right, it was so perfect, but it would just hang in your closet. Still….

You couldn't whip your credit card out fast enough.

Do clothes make the (wo)man? Are we what we wear? In the new book Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past, author Peter Boag proves that those questions plagued our ancestors more than history admits.

Joe Monahan's neighbors were shocked.

The fall of 1903 was short and winter came early. Tough and self-sufficient, Joe had come to the Mallory ranch complaining of illness and he didn't look good. Shortly after his arrival, he died in the warmth of his neighbors' home.

The shock came when they went to prepare Joe's body for burial: Grizzled Joe Monahan was a woman.

Boag says that such scenarios were common in the West in the decades between 1850 and 1920. Cross-dressers, for myriad reasons, were "very much a part of daily life…" and while people tittered and talked, general attitudes were based on late-19th-century beliefs on gender. Medical experts eventually claimed that cross-dressing was part of a "neurological disease" called homosexuality, and "…homosexuality was understood as an unfortunate by-product of modernization."

However, button-holing wasn't so easy.

For women, the frontier was a man's world. There was adventure and prosperity there, and becoming a man as much as possible was a way to seize opportunity. Safety was another reason for appearing masculine, cross-dressing could be scandalous fun, and it could help escape punishment for criminal behavior. There were also women who believed themselves to be boys from birth.

For smooth-faced men, it was common to dress as women for dances and parties because biological women were scarce. Men impersonated women to entertain others. In some Native American communities, "berdaches" were encouraged to embrace femininity. Like some women, males took on girlish appearances to escape crime, and then there were the men who simply wanted to "be" women.

But for those men, and their female counterparts, life wasn't easy.

Being arrested for the "crime" of wearing clothes for the opposite sex was common and cross-dressers were often shunned. Interestingly, however, their partners (usually same-sex) were generally socially accepted.

Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past is good, but long.

Boag offers lots of excellent examples to back up his reasoning behind why these stories are largely hidden from history, and what he found will set western fans (not to mention screenwriters) on their ears. This is fascinating stuff, on many levels.

And yet, the book has its distractions. It's very scholarly and often reads like a dissertation, which occasionally makes it hard to read if you're just looking for a peek at hidden history and not a lecture.

That aside, because it uncovers a wealth of stories that are overdue for telling, I liked "Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past" and I think you will, too. If you're a Western History buff especially, you need to outfit yourself with this book soon.

Want more? Look for Best Little Stories of the Wild West by C. Brian Kelly; or Outrageous Women of the American Frontier by Mary Rodd Furbee.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Gay activist/scholar headlines 'Home Is Where the Art Is' 2016-10-26 - Openly gay Puerto Rican writer, activist and scholar Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes was the featured speaker at the "Home Is Where the Art Is: ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation 2016-10-25 - By Jim Downs. $27.99; Basic Books; 262 pages You had no idea. How could you know? No one ever ...

Gay News

Book Launch for Faith and the Fight for Labor, Gender, and Racial Equality 2016-10-24 - Former CAWHC board member, Marcia Walker-McWilliams, will present her new book on Chicago's great labor and women's rights activist Addie Wyatt. Co-sponsored by ...

Gay News

Highlights Magazine excludes same-sex families from publication 2016-10-19 - Children's magazine "Highlights" excludes parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer ( LGBTQ ) from its publication claiming that families across ...

Gay News

BOOKS Sarah Schulman discusses queer culture, 'Conflict' 2016-10-19 - Sarah Schulman describes herself, and her work, as unorthodox. "I mean, this has been one of the problems my whole life. I don't ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW The Essential RuPaul 2016-10-18 - The Queen has spoken. Everyone listens because, well, how can they not? Her bearing, her stature, her very demeanor demand attention from ...

Gay News

Chicago Ideas Week Oct. 17-23 2016-10-12 - The lineup for Chicago Ideas Week ( CIW ), which takes place 17-23, has officially been released and includes some of the world's ...

Gay News

BOOKS The Transgender Teen: Opening the family dialogue on gender 2016-10-12 - "We think about gender all day and every day, though we might not be aware of it," said Lisa Kenney, co-author of The ...

Gay News

Gay-bar literary submissions wanted 2016-10-12 - Story curators/collectors S. Renee Bess and Lee Lynch are asking writings to create pieces of work that explores the role the gay bar's ...

Gay News

Married authors at W&CF on Nov. 3 2016-10-12 - On Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 p.m. at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Flannery O'Connor Award winner and LGBT author ...


Copyright © 2016 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.
[email protected]  •  [email protected]  •  [email protected]

Website Powered by