by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
Someone told me recently that there is a book about a woman who lived as a man in Meeker County in the mid-1800s. I had never heard about this part of our local history, and I was glad to find I’d already gotten the novel for our library: The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, by William Klaber. It just came out in June.
Lucy, who took the name Joseph, lived near Mannanah in 1857 and 1858. According to The First Hundred Years: A History of Meeker County, by Patrick Casey:
“In 1857 she spent much of her time in and around Manannah, doing chores, chopping wood, etc., dressed in male attire. Sometime in 1858 it was discovered that she was a woman and the fact that she dressed as a man seems to have shocked the morals of certain members of the community and she hailed before Judge Robson’s court.”
A.C. Smith, the author of the 1877 book History of Meeker County, was one of her defense attorneys. She was charged with “falsely impersonating a man to the great scandal of the community and against the peace and dignity of the State of Minnesota.” No one produced evidence of Lobdell doing anything more than dressing as a man. The court found her not guilty because they said the right of women to “wear the pants” had been established since the time of the Roman emperor Justinian.
The story of Lobdell’s life is much longer and more complicated than the brief stay in our area. If you’re curious about her beginnings as a musician and hunter in New York, her desertion by her husband, or her long stretches living as a man and marriage to a woman, check out the novel. It even has footnotes about all of Lobdell’s history that can be found, including her own writings.
Sometimes it’s fun to be able to picture the setting where a story takes place. Other recent books set in Minnesota, present or past, that we have at the library include:
· The Icecutter’s Daughter and The Quarryman’s Bride, the first two books in The Land of Shining Water series by Tracie Peterson, set in Waseca, St. Cloud, and Minneapolis;
· Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke, set in fictional Lake Eden;
· Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg, set in St. Paul;
· Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, set in fictional New Bremen in the Minnesota River Valley;
· Vacationland by Sarah Stonich, set at a lake resort in northern Minnesota; and
· Silken Prey by John Sandford, set in Minneapolis.
When you’re looking for an idea for a good book to read, stop in to browse our shelf of new adult books or ask someone on the library staff for help. We strive to offer a wide variety of books to appeal to all different kinds of readers.