She Was A He!

In the late 1890's a thrilling horse thief raced across the hills and vales of Oklahoma and surrounding
regions.  Big talkers claimed she had been there at the great train robbery at Red Fork.  Bill Doolin of the Dalton-Doolin Gang said she was the best brains around and was one tough hombre. For approximately ten years she lived a life as a daring horse thief who rode like the wind and was known as 'Tom King".

Tom, however, had been born the last child of a wealthy Missouri farmer and in the hills around Holton she rode her beloved horses.  She was sent to Holton College and then another school but soon tired of them and raced back to her horses.  Finally, a shady character caught her attention and she married at  17 John Ora Mundis.  They spent the early months of their marriage visiting all the gaming and saloon dens for all night fun.  Then, they took her inheritance and went to Oklahoma Territory where they lived high in Guthrie until the money ran out.  Some suggest she turned to prostitution and some that she had an affair with a local doctor. Either way, her husband turned jealous and she ran away.  She returned sometime later but in male garb, hair cut male short and calling herself Tom King.  She freed horses from hitching posts, local pastures and fields as an easy way to make money.

She was arrested and escaped a few times and then disappeared... It is believed she died in Clifton, Arizona in 1903, where she was known as Mrs.B.F. Neal and "China Dot",  when a man shot her and then shot himself. Some suggest that the man was her husband Mundis using a fake name. The truth may never be known.

Flora Quick Mundis aka Tom King, Rose Dunn aka "Rose of the Cimarron", along with "Cattle Annie", "Little Britches", Jessie Finley (Finley), and others would fill dramatically the void left by the mysterious murder of Belle Starr in 1889 near Eufaula.  A fascinating page of truly unique history. 

However, they were not the only woman of the west who made a decision that those skirts - and all they represented - were just such a hassle.

In 1907 was the story of a woman who masqueraded in man's attire for many years.  Miss Catherine Vosbugh hid her female sex for 60 years until she died at age 83 in Trinidad, Colorado.  She had been born in France. In this country she found it difficult to make her way and found work as a bookkeeper, male, in Joplin, Missouri.  While she married a woman, who she claimed was in trouble, and lived with her for 30 years as a couple.

About 1905, 'Charlie' Vosbaugh and his wife came to Trinidad where shortly after the wife died and he grew more feeble.  In hospital the secret was discovered and he refused to don female clothes. When he died he was wearing male clothes.

In Buffalo, New York in 1903 was the story of a woman who had worn male clothes for 20 years and when she fell on ice breaking her leg, her secret was uncovered.  Forced into female clothes in the hospital, she vowed she would jump off Niagara Falls before wearing another skirt!  She slipped out and police, staff and others were searching for her, fearful she was going to jump.  She claimed to have a sister in NYC that likewise dressed in male attire.

Into the first dozen years of the 20th century there were many stories of women who were masquerading as men.  It was illegal to do and these often surfaced when someone was arrested.  Several stories indicated that they had adopted male dress and identity merely to make the money needed to survive.  As one young woman from Montana noted: 'A girl can't earn enough to stay straight...I can drive a care and earn fair wages...As a girl ...no more than $5-6 a week...as a boy...$16-30.'    Women joined mining crews, rode with cattle, cooked on the range, and did many other 'male' jobs in order to survive and in many cases to achieve some autonomy.

History is filled with stories of women who masqueraded as men to escape, to have adventures, and to find fulfilment.  They were soldiers, sailors, cowhands, miners, farmers, teamsters, and more. From Deborah Sampson in the Revolution to Catherine "Charlie" Vosbugh they made the determination about what their life would be and how they would like it.

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