Review by KT Sullivan
In her 1879 New York Times obituary, the paper stated that Lucy Ann Lobdell passed herself off as Joseph Lobdell for most of her life. Lucy decided she wanted a say in her life; where she lived, if she married, and earning a living. For these things to happen, the only logical solution was to be a man. After her husband leaves her and she gives birth to her daughter, Helen, Lucy Ann sets out on her own. Dressed as a man, she works on her new persona and winds up giving dance lessons. She also hunts and plays the violin. She has to be very careful about her lie being exposed. When Lucy Ann falls in love with another woman, it’s the beginning of her undoing. She runs away to Minnesota, works for a while, makes friends, and then suspicions rise and she’s running again. She’s arrested, attacked, burned out of her home, and committed to a mental institution. Even her daughter isn’t safe. Lucy Ann marries a woman and tries to live peacefully, but it never happens. The laws and people are always against her.
This is a true and sad story. I hoped Lucy Ann would be happy, safe or left alone to live as she pleased. The reader will be rooting for her success too. What she had to endure for being a woman and different is frightening. She represents women of that time who bucked the status quo and paid a heavy price.
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About the Author:
William Klaber is a part-time journalist who lives in upstate New York on a hill overlooking Basket Creek, a short ways upstream from where Lucy Lobdell lived 160 years ago. The old farmhouse that he bought with his wife Jean in 1980 (and where they raised three children) had a history with Lucy’s legend, but he didn’t know that till years later when he sat down with Jack Niflot, a long-time local historian. Jack told him Lucy’s story and showed him a leather satchel filled with recollections and articles about her, gathered over years. What Jack hadn’t found with his searching was the memoir that Lucy had promised. Saying that he no longer felt up to writing a book of his own, Jack handed the satchel to the author.
Following the gift of Jack’s research, the author made his own effort to find Lucy’s memoir. When nothing came of it, he decided that the finding would have to be by way of echoes and dreams. Mr. Klaber is a graduate of Wesleyan University and is best known for producing the public radio documentary, The RFK Tapes, and co-authoring the bookShadow Play (St. Martins, 1997). The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is his first foray into fiction.
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