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December 09, 2016
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New novel tackles the story of Lucy Ann (aka Joseph) Lobdell; ‘The female hunter of Long Eddy’

The New York Times ran this obituary in 1879, but according to Klaber’s novel this is not when Lobdell died.

When Lucy Ann, who now called herself Joseph Lobdell, arrived in Honesdale in the early 1850s, it was still a rough-and-ready canal town. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” had recently been published and was creating a stir. Details like this give the book the feel of a contemporary account; it’s easy to forget you’re reading a 21st century novel.

There’s another way in which Klaber’s book is true to its time—the author doesn’t superimpose contemporary psychosexual terms on his subject. Although Lucy Ann lived as a man and even took a wife, Klaber doesn’t label her transgender. He only uses the term lesbian when it was applied to Lobdell by a doctor, in 1883. (This may be the first time the word was ever used to describe a woman who was sexually attracted to women.)

Klaber spent 14 years writing his book; he’s had a lot of time to consider his one-of-a-kind subject. In the end, he concluded that Lucy Ann’s rebellion was essentially political, not sexual. In 1882, when she was incarcerated in an insane asylum, her wife, Marie Louise Perry wrote: “The abuse and injustice which she often has to endure, and which has such a crushing influence upon her existence, seems to be a wrong on the part of the administrators of the law and the [exclusively male] voters who create them.” The words may have been Perry’s, but they were also the sentiments of the very rebellious Lucy Ann Lobdell.

[Editor’s note: On Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m., the author will give a reading from “The Rebellion of Lucy Ann Lobdell” at the Tusten-Cochecton Library in Narrowsburg, NY on Bridge Street.]