Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vera, The Boy in Skirts

21 Years as a Girl.

A quaint story of a boy having been raised to manhood as a girl comes from the little island of Ocracoke, off North Carolina, wither, after a brief struggle for a living in Baltimore, Charles C. Williams, 21, has just returned, declaring that he much prefers wearing skirts, sewing, household work, and the companionship of girls.

When Williams was born his mother was bitterly disappointed that he was not a girl. She called him Vera and dressed him as a girl. Ocracoke supports some 600 persons, mostly fisherfolk, and with the exception of the mother none knew that Vera was a boy.

He grew up to be a quite good-looking girl with blonde hair and fair complexion, and he did not leave the island until his 21st birthday, when his mother took him, dressed in women's clothes, to the mainland where he made the discovery that Ocracoke was only a small place in the world.

On his return to the island Vera wrote to a mail-order house and obtained by parcel post an outfit of men's clothes. He cut off his long hair, took the money had earned by sewing, and rowed to the mainland. Then he wrote to his mother that he was tired of being a girl.

She replied telling him that his real name was Charles. For two months Charles worked as a waiter in Baltimore. then he became disgusted with the world. He has now returned to Ocracoke and the society of his girl friends.

Daily Mail, 22nd September, 1921.

What I find most remarkable about this poignant tale is the lack of shrill voice. On a day which saw the publication in the UK of the Leveson Enquiry Report into standards of the press, can we imagine today the Daily Mail, of all of them, reporting this story with such detached bemusement and no shrieking and pointing? It's quite an affecting story and all the more so for the fact that there is no mention of the locals waiting to greet Charles/Vera on his return with pitchforks and flaming torches: in fact, towards the end of the article it is even hinted that Charles/Vera had a very strong sense of morals.

A Google Earth tour of the island reveals that is probably has not many more inhabitants today than it did 90 years ago...


Anonymous said...

Both Ocracoke and Baltimore were rather unusual places for most of the period ending toward the close of the 20th century. Knowing both places, this story hardly surprises me.

Callum said...

Looking at the location of Ocracoke I can well believe it would have been an odd and interesting place. Has an almost Lovecraftian sense of isolation about it but the local knowledge is most welcome, thank you.

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