By reader request, I’m finishing up Women’s History Month with a feature on transgender socialite and chef Lucy Hicks Anderson!
Lucy Hicks Anderson (née Lawson) was born in Waddy, Kentucky in 1886 and identified as female from a very early age. Remarkably for this time period, a physician recommended that she be raised as a girl, and her parents agreed.
Anderson left school at age 15 and became a domestic worker. At age 20, she headed west. She met her husband Clarence Hicks in 1920 and they moved to Oxnard, California. In Oxnard, Anderson worked as both a nanny and chef. She won various awards for her cooking. Her talent as a chef led to her hosting and catering dinner parties for the wealthy families of Oxnard. She was known to throw welcome parties for new church members and going-away parties for soldiers heading off to war. It was reported that she purchased nearly $50,000 in war bonds to support the US effort in World War II, an amount of money with a purchasing power of about $800,000 today, in 2021. She was a kind and generous spirit, often donating to charities like the Red Cross and Boy Scouts of America.
As a Prohibition-era entrepreneur, Lucy eventually saved enough money to open a speakeasy and brothel, which she operated out of a boarding house that she had purchased. Despite this illegal activity, she was such a well-known, respected, and loved figure in the community that her businesses thrived. In one instance, she was caught selling alcohol illegally, but was bailed out by the town’s banker, who needed her catering services that night. She never faced any serious repercussions for these activities.
Lucy divorced Hicks in 1929 and married soldier Reuben Anderson in 1944. Their happiness was short-lived, as an outbreak of venereal disease within the US Navy in 1945 was traced back to Lucy’s brothel. When a doctor visited to examine the women working in the brothel, he also insisted on examining Lucy. He then outed her as transgender.
Lucy Anderson was charged with perjury for “lying” on her marriage license, as well as fraud for receiving money as a soldier’s wife. She became the first transgender woman to defend her identity in court.
I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, and acted just what I am—a woman.”Lucy Hicks Anderson, addressing the court during her trial.
Both Lucy and her husband were jailed, with Lucy receiving an additional 10 years of probation. She was prohibited from dressing as a woman. Upon their release, the Andersons were told they could no longer reside in Oxnard.
Lucy and Reuben Anderson moved to Los Angeles, where they resided quietly until Lucy’s death in 1954.
Material sourced from:
– Rosenthal, Michele, https://www.queerportraits.com/bio/anderson