Perhaps the most interesting and mysterious of these women was Ellen Tremayne, or Tremaye, who as Edward De Lacy Evans gained notoriety in Victoria in 1879. The Evans case attracted many lurid reports in colonial and international newspapers and sensationalist pamphlets with headlines such as ‘Extraordinary Personation Case’ or ‘The Impersonation Case’. People who claimed to have known her in Ireland or on the immigrant ship, the Ocean Monarch, came forward with hearsay and gossip trying to unravel the ‘mystery’ of this woman’s life.
Like ‘Jack’ Jorgensen, De Lacy Evans lived a large part of her life as a labourer. When her gender was discovered by the authorities she was persuaded to exhibit herself as an oddity at sideshows.
She may have been a transsexual, or gender dysphoric, that is, a person who felt herself to be male, despite being anatomically female. Today she might have had surgery and hormone treatment to arrive at gender comfort. On the other hand she might have been lesbian, preferring sex with women and using male garb as a way of surviving in an ostensibly ‘moral’ and heterosexual society. The newspapers treated such women mercilessly. The various accounts of her life show that Evans was unable to cope psychologically with circumstances both before her ‘masquerade’ and after her discovery.
Evans, or Ellen Tremayne, as she was known on the ship, arrived in Australia as an assisted immigrant in June 1856. According to the Shipping Lists she was from Kilkenny, 26 years old, was Roman Catholic, could read and write and was described as a housemaid. If we can believe the confused and often contradictory reports that appeared in 1879, when the ‘scandal’ broke, she had borne an illegitimate child in Ireland and fled to America. She is supposed to have returned to Ireland but was again forced by social disapproval of her ‘immoral’ life to sail to Australia by the Ocean Monarch.
During the voyage she caused much speculation on varying counts. She wore a man’s shirt and trousers under her dress and seemed to have formed sexual attachments to some of her female cabin mates, in particular, Mary Delahunty, a 34-year-old governess who came from the same part of Ireland, the Harristown-Waterford region. Some of her fellow passengers thought Evans was a man masquerading as a woman!
Soon after arrival Evans, or Tremayne, as she was then known, was employed as a maidservant at a Melton public house. After some time she left this position, donned men’s clothes, found Mary Delahunty and, calling herself Edmund De Lacy, ‘married’ Delahunty at St Francis’ Roman Catholic church in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. There is evidence, however, that they ‘did not live comfortably together’. Delahunty opened a school in Blackwood and around 1862 left to marry Lyman Oatman Hart, an American mining surveyor in Daylesford.
What of the name De Lacy Evans? During the 1850s it was a famous one. General Sir George De Lacy Evans was a prominent military man at the Crimean War and part of the Irish establishment. Evans’s ‘third wife’, Julia Marquand, stated that Evans had told her that the general was his uncle. Further, it was reported that Ellen Tremayne had a cabin trunk marked with the words ‘Edward De Lacy Evans’. A woman who claimed to have been a Kilkenny neighbour told the newspapers that Evans was really Ellen Lacy, daughter of a well-to-do farmer of Harristown, Kilkenny, who had borne an illegitimate child and fled to North America. She returned as Mrs De Lacy Evans and was last remembered in the early 1850s as causing a furore when she rode her horse among the villagers at a gathering held by the Earl of Bessborough. The locals drove her out of town as an immoral woman. There is speculation in the Man-Woman pamphlet that her husband or paramour was named Edward De Lacy Evans, that he somehow tricked her by placing his trunk on the Ocean Monarch but had deserted her. A man of that name is supposed to have arrived in Melbourne in June 1858 on theMatoaka, ‘a rather handsome young fellow, well developed and with fine-flowing whiskers’ who worked as labourer around Ballarat and Bendigo.
During the next 20 years Evans ‘married’ two other women: Sarah Moore, who died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1867, and Julia Marquand of Bendigo. Evans worked as a carter, miner, blacksmith and ploughman in the Blackwood, Bendigo and Stawell districts. During this time it seems that Evans was charged at the police court and jailed for seven days for being found in a servant’s bedroom at the hotel where she and her ‘wife’ Sarah worked, but got away with swindling a fellow miner out of £175. Nevertheless, the public record shows her as owning shares in various goldmines and paying rates for properties in Eaglehawk and Sandhurst.
When her third ‘wife’, Julia Marquand, gave birth to a child in March 1878 Evans registered herself as the father. Perhaps in a certain sense, we can see Evans as the embodiment of feminist Julia Kristeva’s theories of the ‘abject mother’ and the ‘imaginary father’. In the early 1850s Evans, as Ellen Tremaye, had borne a child and become outcast from her own region; now in 1878, by registering the child as her own in her masculine persona, she becomes a ‘father’.
Evans and Julia Marquand seem to have lived together only intermittently, Evans working in Stawell or Ballarat and Marquand working as a dressmaker near the City Family Hotelowned by Marquand’s brother-in-law Jean Baptiste Loridan. There must, however, have been deep resentments following on the discovery of her ‘wife’s’ pregnancy. In July 1879, she became violent to Julia and the 15-month-old daughter, fell into deep depression and was admitted to the Lunacy Ward of the Bendigo Hospital suffering from ‘amentia’. For the next six weeks she refused to bathe, and it was not until she was removed to the Kew Asylum and forcibly stripped, that her gender was discovered. She was promptly handed over to female nurses and dressed in ‘frocks and petticoats’. Bendigo newspapers reported the story with much prurient and salacious detail. Soon, the colonial and international press ran the stories.
When the De Lacy Evans ‘scandal’ broke, Aaron Flegeltaub, a Stawell photographer, exploited the situation bringing to light ‘excellent likenesses’ of Evans and Julia Marquand taken about 1870. He possibly made a tidy sum selling them ascartes-de-visite. Bendigo photographer Nicholas White somehow obtained access to Evans just after she had been readmitted to the Bendigo Lunacy ward, and took a trick photograph of her dressed in both male and female clothing. He also took a series of head and shoulders portraits of Evans wearing what seems to be a white hospital nightshirt (or straight-jacket). White’s action seems a clear case of exploitation. In the photographs Evans stares out at us, wild eyed and probably affronted by the intrusion. The Australian Medical Journal of 15 April 1880 gave a detailed description of another intrusion: a gynaecological examination that caused her to cry and scream while Dr Penfold used his speculum. This report, however, verifies that Evans was physiologically female and that she had carried and borne a child.
Not surprisingly the existence of a child and the ‘wife’s’ insistence that she did not know that Evans was a woman caused most public conjecture. Speaking to reporters, Julia Marquand ingenuously accounted for the child by saying that she believed that ‘some strange man entered the house one night about the time her husband should have returned home’. There was evidence that the second wife, Sarah Moore, after about a year of marriage, was aware of the masquerade and not happy with the situation. A witness reported Moore punching Evans on the breast, her ‘weak place’. While Marquand might not have been aware of Evans’s gender, it is likely that she nevertheless had sought sexual gratification with her brother-in-law.
After her release from Kew Asylum, Evans, dressed as a woman and still mentally distressed, was a witness at Julia Marquand’s paternity suit against her brother-in-law Jean Baptiste Loridan, a prosperous Bendigo businessman, married to Marquand’s sister, and father of four children. Evans gave the only corroborative evidence in the case stating that she’ had seen them in bed together. But her evidence, given in an incoherent manner, was not accepted and the case was dismissed. The scandal and business problems led to the ruin of Loridan’s career in Bendigo and he left for Queensland where he was involved in the start of the sugarcane industry.
The furore of the De Lacy Evans case caused entertainment entrepreneurs to apply to the Bendigo Hospital for permission for her to be ‘publicly exhibited’. Samuel Lazar of Sydney offered £3 and £5 per week for a tour. To their credit, the Asylum authorities refused the offers. Nevertheless, after her release from the hospital in December 1879 Evans was being exhibited by panorama showmen at Geelong and Stawell.
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