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Suzie

Brigham Morris Young and early LDS cross-dressing

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I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for reading this long post. As many of you know, Church history is one of my passions and the recent discussions about cross-dressing here in our forum, prompted me to share some interesting historical data that I have found throughout the years. It is my wish that some of you find the information valuable. You are more than welcome to reply to this thread and please, by all means, smile while looking at some of these incredible pictures.

 My disclaimer: The following was written with a spirit of good-fellowship and to share some of my findings with all of you. I really hope you find it beneficial for your own studies.

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Despite popular belief, the act of wearing items of clothing commonly associated with the opposite sex isn’t recent.  As early as the first decades of the nineteenth century, theater goers could enjoy a performance of a variety of shows such as singers, dancers, acrobats, magicians and comedy all in one night. American Vaudeville was a theatrical genre and a very popular form of family entertainment from the 1880s until early 1930s. Along with singers, jugglers, dancers, and comedians (and more) there were also female and male impersonators. They were extremely popular and well-paid. Even though, some of these performers were indeed homosexual or transgender in real life, people did not make a direct association between cross-dressing and homosexuality but merely, it was seen as a form of art or comedy.

vaudeville.jpg

 

It should be noted that more than 40 cities across the country had somewhat anti-cross-dressing laws in existence in the 1880s. So if any of these performers was caught wearing clothes of the opposite sex in public, they would have been arrested. As a matter of fact, they were a couple of cases that ended up in court.

crossdressing.jpgcrossdressing1.jpg

 

crossdressing3.jpgcrossdressing4.jpg

Benjamin Franklin Keith, was the father of American Vaudeville. He forbade vulgarity in all forms during performances (which were common in saloons and grotesque houses) so that the shows would directly appeal to the support of women and children. It is not difficult to understand then why entire families would support loved ones on this venture that we might find unusual.

What about Mormons in our history? Did anyone cross-dress? The short answer is yes. Take for example Brigham Morris Young. He was Brigham Young’s child #35 with wife #22 Margaret Pierce (her sister was also Young’s wife). Her first husband Morris Whitesides died a few months before she remarried Young. Her marriage to Morris was short-lived, lasting only seven months but she loved him so much that chose to name her only child after both husbands.

Morris Young was educated at his father’s own private school and attended the University of Deseret; he chose not to continue his education outside Utah (even though he had the chance) in order to please his mother’s wishes to remain at home. He devoted his entire life to the Church, serving three missions to Hawaii and being an employee in the Salt Lake City Temple.  After he finished his first mission (1873-1874), he was asked by his father to organize the Young Men's Association for Mutual Improvement (YMMIA). Later on, a few months after his return from a second mission, he married one of the daughters of Lorenzo Snow and Harriet Squire, Celestia Armeda Snow Young (March 29, 1875). Can you see how much Celestia resembles her aunt Eliza R.Snow?

 

celestia.jpgbrighammorrisyoung.jpg

 

Two days before the wedding, Brigham Young received a letter from Celestia’s parents. Her father Lorenzo Snow explained to Young that unforeseen circumstances would not allow them to attend the marriage ceremony but he wanted Young to know more about his daughter since she was practically a stranger to Young. He wrote in that letter that Celestia has always been a good, obedient daughter and they hope this union may prove to be happy. Most importantly, he stated that this marriage had their sanction and blessing. Young Morris and Celestia formed a beautiful family, had ten children together (but only eight reached adulthood). Shortly after completing another mission to Hawaii (he was already married and had children, around 1885) he started publicly appearing as a cross-dresser singer under the pseudonym of Madame Pattirini (pretending to be a famous Italian singer). It wasn't a rare occasion; he performed as a soprano singer for many years. He appeared at different venues in Utah from 1885 to 1900's. It seems like his family attended the functions and supported him. His singing was extraordinary according to one of his sons, Gaylen Snow who stated that his father performed such a convincing falsetto, that many people in the audience didn't realize that Madame Pattirini was in fact Brigham Morris Young and he was able to "fool" many people. He was also called to perform at ward and stake functions. The picture below is a circa 1883 placard advertising.

 

brighammorrisyoungpattirini.jpg

His marriage apparently was not affected by his desire to perform as a cross-dresser. He remained faithfully married to Celestia and a golden wedding commemoration took place in the Lion’s house in 1925 in their honor. At the time of his passing, they were married for 56 years.

Let's talk about another early LDS cross-dresser performer: Evan Stephens. He was 36 years old when he was called as the Music Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a position he held for 26 years (1890-1916). He had a great sense of humor and according to the Deseret News (back in the day) Stephens used to perform also as a cross-dresser singer with bonnet and veil to impersonate an old maid soprano. His performances were inimitable according to the news and just like Morris Young, he had the remarkable ability of maintaining the falsetto voice on the high notes (Deseret News). In the picture below, we observe an advertisement about Stephen's cross dressing act.

 

EvanStephens1.jpg

 

Over the years, there has been a lot of speculation with regards to Stephen's sexuality but in my research I found the speculations to be unfounded and irresponsible. I am not with Quinn on this one (some of you know that I respect a lot of his work). I didn't like the undertone and innuendo he used to describe Stephens. In a few words, he described him as a closet-homosexual and a predator, luring young men for his own selfish desires. He did not provide any serious research to back up such claim and ignored many accounts, it was disappointing to say the least on this particular issue. I could write more but I do not want to go off-topic. Perhaps a new thread about him will be created in the near future?

Now, just to finish this long post I am sharing with you this funny picture found in the book Lowell L. Bennion: Teacher, Counselor and Humanitarian by Mary Lythgoe Bradford. This is what some missionaries used to do during their P-day (lol) Just kidding . Seriously, they had a great sense of humor. The picture below is Lowell. L. Bennion (he deserves a thread of his own but for other reasons! I love this man) along with his missionary companions in 1930. They certainly look like they were having fun riding that fake horse!

bennion.jpg

 

Edited by Suzie
typos

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10 minutes ago, Just_A_Guy said:

Well, if I'm a snowflake, then baby--winter is coming!!!

(Cribbed from a progressive friend on Facebook.)

Oh, so now you are hanging out with evil progressives?! 

The company you keep young man. The company you keep. 

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5 hours ago, MormonGator said:

Oh, so now you are hanging out with evil progressives?! 

 

Now? JAG has been hanging out with evil progressives for a long while. :smokindevil:

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11 hours ago, Suzie said:

 My disclaimer: The following was written with a spirit of good-fellowship and to share some of my findings with all of you. I really hope you find it beneficial for your own studies.

Never could get used to wearing a skirt. (Maybe it's a seasonal thing. Spring is two nice to stand still in a dress, my legs sweat in Summer, and dresses are hard to hike in, Autumn is two windy, and Winter is too darned cold.) :) 

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While interesting, I question the validity that someone is assigning to another as a cross dresser, especially in the context of the stage.

Up until the 1950s, men dressing as woman on stage was actually far more the norm than the exception in many instances.  To equate these as the same as many of those who crossdress in public today, is a rather large fallacy for  someone to make.

Centuries ago, in most stage productions, the actors were all men.  Woman normally did not participate in acting. 

This meant that when there was a woman portrayed on stage, it was normally a man.

So, in the context of William Shakespeare, Juliet most likely was played by a man dressed up as Juliet.

This continued up until at least the 19th century, and even then was still very common for men to be acting as women on stage.  In fact, many strictly went by which gender they acted as, so if they were good at playing a certain type of woman on stage, that would be what they would normally focus on.

Woman started being more acceptable in theater, and it became more common for woman to be in theatrical productions, but it was still common for men to be acting as woman.

This was considered a respectable profession, and there were respected actors in that field. 

In the 19th century, some woman who were in the field were considered to have low morals, as it was more acceptable in many 'romantic' dramas to have men kissing actors portraying woman, than actually kissing woman who they were not married to (weird morality...maybe), if there was any actual kissing even portrayed.

There were notable woman actors in the 19th century, but they truly came to prominence at the beginning of the 20th century.  Even then, men portraying woman in acting continued, though not as much as it had in the past.  In some areas it was due to the availability of woman (as mocked in the film West Point Story with James Cagney), in others it was simply the tradition of that particular acting troupe or theater.

Now days, it has pretty much died off, but this is a more recent phenomenon.

It can not be denied there was a large amount of those that cross dressed in normal life who were in the theater, as well as homosexuality and other arenas of life, but typically these were not necessarily connected to what happened on stage.  An individual who portrayed woman on stage was not necessarily normally a cross dresser, and vice versa, someone who played men on stage may have actually been a cross dresser off stage.  One doing one thing, did not correlate to them doing something else.

I would like to see the documentation that Morris Young was not simply what some in modern day language would call a Drag Queen Entertainer (Drag Queens dress in woman's clothes, but are not necessarily Gay or cross dressing other than being on stage.  They come from all identities, genders, and other forms.  Some are also cross dressers or other dynamics in their off stage lives, but many Drag Queens also do it primarily for entertainment of others).  Every source I've seen regarding him thus far that try to paint him as something other than doing it simply for entertainment has come from questionable sources (which in typical fashion, are what many would call anti-Mormon resources).

I'd be interested in the primary sources which show if he carried this persona beyond the stage into his everyday life, or if it was just a stage persona that he participated in.

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5 hours ago, JohnsonJones said:

While interesting, I question the validity that someone is assigning to another as a cross dresser, especially in the context of the stage. that he participated in.

This is perhaps because you are giving the term "cross dresser" a modern definition that is related to someone's sexuality. However, the definition of cross dresser in the dictionary is the following:

Quote

Wear clothing typical of the opposite sex.

But there are other terms that we could use such as female impersonators or drag artists.

Quote

Up until the 1950s, men dressing as woman on stage was actually far more the norm than the exception in many instances.  To equate these as the same as many of those who crossdress in public today, is a rather large fallacy for  someone to make.

Where did you observe such equation in the OP?

Quote

I would like to see the documentation that Morris Young was not simply what some in modern day language would call a Drag Queen Entertainer (Drag Queens dress in woman's clothes, but are not necessarily Gay or cross dressing other than being on stage.

..... I'd be interested in the primary sources which show if he carried this persona beyond the stage into his everyday life, or if it was just a stage persona that he participated in.

About Morris Young, I thought the post was clear when trying to provide historical data without speculating on his sexuality. As a matter of fact, I mentioned that his family supported him and he was faithfully married to his wife for 56 years. I provided a historical background to cross-dressing before mentioning Morris Young on purpose, so I could let readers know that it was a common practice back in the 19th century.

 

Edited by Suzie

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On 2/18/2017 at 5:49 PM, Suzie said:

provided a historical background to cross-dressing before mentioning Morris Young on purpose, so I could let readers know that it was a common practice back in the 19th century.

 

Well that is inaccurate. It was not a "common practice" for people to cross-dress. What was common was as JJ said for men to play both genders in plays-this is fairly well known in theatre.  

I've seen people that attempt to justify that cross-dressing is no big deal b/c see they did it in the past! Well, if you look into it, it was actually pretty strictly applied-i.e. it was only acceptable when acting in a play.  And then pretty much as soon as it became acceptable for women to act in plays, the acceptability of cross-dressing in theatre dropped. Dressing as a woman in a play in 1880s != cross-dressing.

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4 hours ago, yjacket said:

I've seen people that attempt to justify that cross-dressing is no big deal b/c see they did it in the past! Well, if you look into it, it was actually pretty strictly applied-i.e. it was only acceptable when acting in a play.  And then pretty much as soon as it became acceptable for women to act in plays, the acceptability of cross-dressing in theatre dropped. Dressing as a woman in a play in 1880s != cross-dressing.

If you are hinting that I am trying to justify cross-dressing, you are wrong and you should re-read the thread. Second, there is a reason I took my time to write about Vaudeville to ensure the readers understand the historical context of cross-dressing/drag artists (you pick the word) in the 19th century and third, if you read the OP properly you should have noted that I mentioned anti-dressing laws in existence as well as arrests that took place back then that ended up in court.

Edited by Suzie

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4 hours ago, yjacket said:

 

 

4 hours ago, yjacket said:

Hey, you were the one who said cross-dressing was a common practice when it wasn't.

It was obvious to me that I was referring to the historical context that I took my time to write (Vaudeville) but I guess you missed the point. Thanks for pointing it out though.

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