September 26, 2007
Los Gatos Had a Cross-Dressing Crook Captured in 1895
Thanks to Google Alerts, “Live in Los Gatos” doesn’t have an excuse for missing much that comes online about the Town. This morning I was directed to an article in the San Jose Mercury News that discussed a bit about life in the 1890s. A photo of women with enormously poofy sleeves was displayed, along with a discussion about their clothes generally. It wasn’t all that interesting.
At the bottom of this article is a section titled “112 Years Ago” and that’s where the interesting stuff was buried.
Apparently Charley Parkhurst (who was a female dressed as a male her whole adult life), a stagecoach driver discussed in this blog previously in “Surprises of the WIld West“, wasn’t the only one back in the wild west days with a secret! Charley Parkhurst, though, was an honest worker, a teamster who couldn’t have worked in her chosen profession without some deception. (She was also the first woman to vote in the US!)
In the case of Louise Elizabeth Myrtle Blaxland Murton Matson, though, it may have been work that motivated her, but not honest work. Imagine her jailmates’ surprise when she was thrown in with them in January of 1895 and they realized that the guy passing bad checks on Main Street in Los Gatos was no man at all. Apparently it was her mother who thought up the idea that if she dressed like a man, she could get away with her crime (what a family!). The judge must have been baffled as to what to do with this case.
Instead of sentencing her to serve time in the jail (perhaps there were no women’s facilities?), he released her with an order to dress like a woman.
Some would argue, both then and now, that this would be quite punishment enough.