Voice of the People: Daily Life in the Antebellum Rural Delaware County New York Area
Family and Daily Life
Family and Daily Life Homepage | Letters/Diaries/Newspapers, etc | Lucy Ann Lobdell main page | Alienist and neurologist: A quarterly journal of scientific, clinical and forensic psychiatry and neurology 4, no.1 (1883): 87-91: Case of Sexual Perversion
Alienist and neurologist: A quarterly journal of scientific, clinical and forensic psychiatry and neurology 4, no.1 (1883): 87-91
CASE OF SEXUAL PERVERSION
By P. M. Wise, M. D., Willard, N.Y.,
Assistant Physician of the Willard Asylum for the insane.
The case of sexual perversion herewith reported, has been under the writer’s observation for the past two years and since the development of positive insanity. The early history of her abnormal sexual tendency is incomplete, but from a variety of sources, enough information has been gleaned to afford a brief history of a remarkable life and of a rare form of mental disease.
Case. -- Lucy Ann Slater, alias, Rev. Joseph Lobdell, was admitted to the Willard Asylum, October 12th, 1880; aged 56, widow, without occupation and a declared vagrant. Her voice was coarse and her features were masculine. She was dressed in male attire throughout and declared herself to be a man, giving her name as Joseph Lobdell, a Methodist minister; said she was married and had a wife living. She appeared in good physical health; when admitted, she was in a state of turbulent excitement, but was not confused and gave responsive answers to questions. Her excitement was of an erotic nature and her sexual inclination was perverted. In passing to the ward, she embraced the female attendant in a lewd manner and came near overpowering her before she received assistance. Her conduct on the ward
was characterized by the same lascivious conduct, and she made efforts art various times to have sexual intercourse with her associates. Several weeks after her admission she became quiet and depressed, but would talk freely about herself and her condition. She gave her correct name at this time and her own history, which was sufficiently corroborated by other evidence to prove that her recollection of early life was not distorted by her later psychosis.
It appears she was the daughter of a lumberman living in the mountainous region of Delaware Co., N. Y. that she inherited an insane history from her mother’s antecedents. She was peculiar in girlhood, in that she preferred masculine sports and labor; had an aversion to attentions from young men and sought the society of her own sex. It was after the earnest solicitation of her parents and friends that she consented to marry, in her twentieth year, a man for whom, she has repeatedly stated, she had no affection and from whom she never derived a moment’s pleasure, although she endeavored to be a dutiful wife. Within two years she was deserted by her husband and shortly after gave birth to a female child, now living. Thenceforward, she followed her inclination to indulge in masculine vocations most freely; donned male attire, spending much of the time in the woods with the rifle and became so expert in its use that she was renowned throughout the county as the “Female Hunter of Long Eddy.” She continued to follow the life of trapper and hunter and spent several years in Northern Minnesota among the Indians. Upon her return to her native county she published a book giving an account of her life and a narrative of her woods experience that is said to have been well written, although in quaint style. Unfortunately the reporter has been unable to procure a copy of this book as it is now very scarce. She states, however, that she did not refer to sexual causes to explain her conduct and mode of life at that time, although she considered herself a man in all that the
name implies. During the few years following her return from the West, she met with many reverses, and in ill health she received shelter and care in the alms-house. There she became attached to a young woman of good education, who had been left by her husband in a destitute condition and was receiving charitable aid. The attachment appeared to be mutual and, strange as it may seem, led to their leaving their temporary home to commence life in the woods in the relation of husband and wife. The unsexed woman assumed the name of Joseph Lobdell and the pair lived in this relation for the subsequent decade; “Joe,” as she was familiarly known, following her masculine vocation of hunting and trapping and thus supplying themselves with the necessaries of life.
An incident occurred in 1876 to interrupt the quiet monotony of this Lesbian love. “Joe” and her assumed wife made a visit to a neighboring village, ten miles distant, where “he” was recognized, was arrested as a vagrant and lodged in jail.
On the authority of a local correspondent, I learn that there is now among the records of the Wayne Co. (Pa.) Court, a document that was drawn up by the “wife” after she found “Joe” was in jail. “It is a petition for the release of her ‘husband, Joseph Israel Lobdell’ from prison, because of ‘his’ failing health. The pen used by the writer was a stick whittled to a point and split; the ink was pokeberry juice. The chirography is faultless and the language used is a model of clear, correct English.” The petition had the desired effect and “Joe” was released from jail. For the following three years they lived together quietly and without noticeable incident, when “Joe” had a maniacal attack that resulted in her committal to the asylum before-mentioned.
The statement of the patient in the interval of quiet that followed soon after her admission to the asylum, was quite clear and coherent and she evidently had a vivid recollection of her late “married life.” From this statement it appears that she made frequent attempts at
sexual intercourse with her companion and believed them successful; that she believed herself to possess virility and the coaptation of a male; that she had not experienced connubial content with her husband, but with her late companion nuptial satisfaction was complete. In nearly her own words; “I may be a woman in one sense, but I have peculiar organs that make me more a man than a woman.” I have been unable to discover any abnormality of the genitals, except an enlarged clitoris covered by a large relaxed praeputium. She says she has the power to erect this organ in the same way a turtle protrudes its head--her own comparison. She disclaims onanistic practices. Cessation of menstrual function occurred early in womanhood, the date having passed from her recollection. During the two years she has been under observation in the Willard Asylum she has had repeated paroxysmal attacks of erotomania and exhilaration, without periodicity, followed by corresponding periods of mental and physical depression. Dementia has been progressive and she is fast losing her memory and capacity for coherent discourse.
Westphal reports the case of a female,* that resembles in its salient features the foregoing; who, at the age of twenty, acquired regular desire towards her own sex. The sexual organs were normal and she practiced onanism. Having attempted to violate a female relative for the purpose of gratifying her desires and being repulsed, she became depressed with paroxysms of mania. He also reports the case of a male, and contributes an article with Dr. Servaes† upon the same subject several years later. In a contribution‡ and later, an exhaustive essay,§ Krafft-Ebing gives an analysis of the published observations of this anomalous and rare disorder to the present time. With his own additions they number seventeen of both sexes and represent various degrees of perversion. In all but one of these cases there was a neurotic dia-
thesis with positive symptoms of insanity. He discusses fully the relation of society to theses sufferers and suggests they should be excepted from legal enactments for the punishment of unnatural lewdness; thus allowing them to follow their inclinations, so far as they are harmless, to an extent not reaching public and flagrant offense.
It would be more charitable and just if society would protect them from the ridicule and aspersion they must always suffer, if their responsibility is legally admitted, by recognizing them as the victims of a distressing mono-delusional form of insanity. It is reasonable to consider true sexual perversion as always a pathological condition and a peculiar manifestation of insanity.
The subject possesses little forensic interest, especially in this country, and the case herewith reported is offered as a clinical curiosity in psychiatric medicine.
*Archiv fuer Psych., Band II, Heft I.
†Archiv fuer Pschy., Band VI, Heft II.
‡Zeitschrift fuer Psych., Band XXXIII, Heft 2.
§Zeitschrift fuer Psych., XXXVIII, Band, Heft 2 and 3.
Transcribed by Terri Ahrens. Misspellings have carefully been preserved.All materials on this website are for non-profit, educational use.