No. 656
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
June 22, 2024

Willie Craig Was a Girl.

But what a lovely sensation she created among the Henderson, Tenn. sweet girls and susceptible b
May 11, 2015
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Strange Company - 6/21/2024
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An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Nellie and Fanny.Nelly Dalton and Fanny Coburn, two young Boston women, were out on the town one autumn afternoon in 1855. They met and flirted with William Sumner and Josiah Porter, two promising young college graduates. Though both women were married, they arranged to see the boys again.Nelly and William embarked on a heartfelt correspondence. Their amorous letters sometimes included
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Murder By Gaslight - 6/22/2024
CHIEF OF CONSThe Morning Times(Cripple Creek, Colorado)February 15, 1896Courtesy of Mitch Morrissey ig Ed Burns robs a dying man?      Mitch Morrissey, a Facebook friend and historian for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, found and published an interesting newspaper piece on "Big Ed" Burns, one of the most notorious characters in the West. Burns was a confidence man and
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Chorus Girls Fight. | Mdlle. Carlotta de Berg.

Willie Craig Was a Girl.

Willie Craig was a girl

But what a lovely sensation she created among the Henderson, Tenn. sweet girls and susceptible boys before her sex was discovered. [more]

When Willie Craig first made his appearance in the small town of Henderson, Tenn., all the girls in town fell dead in love with him. He had an Apollo-like shape and a complexion that ould have made Madame Recamier blush. Willie’s feet were small. So were his hands. He played piano, sang, and altogether the girls agreed that he was the sweetest fellow in the world. Of course the young men were jealous. Willie made very few friends among them. But he seemed to be perfectly satisfied with his feminine companions.

In view of these facts the sensation which was aroused in Henderson the other day when Willie was found to be a girl can better be imagined then described. Immediately the whole attitude of everybody changed, and the girls how had loved hated, while the boys who had hated loved. For four months this young woman had worn men’s clothes about the town and, despite her delicate appearance as a youth, was not detected until recently.

Back of her actions is a story. She tells it herself that several years ago she had two lovers, one named Sam Beasley, of Union City, Tenn., and the other Lee Steed of Martin. She was coquettish. She led them on. Jealousy burned in flaming fires within their breasts. It came to a misunderstanding, then a blow and then a duel. In that duel Lee Steed shot and killed young Beasley. About the same time that this occurred the young girl’s father died. Then her mother broke up housekeeping. Grieved by the death of her lover, for she had loved Beasley best, she resolved never to receive the attentions of another young man. To most effectively prevent men making love to her she became to all appearance on of their sex. And thus for three years she lived in one town then another until she went to Henderson about three months ago to be discovered as stated.

Her real name is Willie Rankins. She has two half brothers. One of them is living at Hickman Ky. His name is Poland Montgomery. It was by accident that the girl’s sex was discovered, and she now decided to be a sure enough girl again in dress as well as person.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, October 14, 1893.