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New York Times: Caroline/Charles Winslow Hall and Giuseppina Boriani, October 1, 1901

"Boston Woman Posed As Man With A Wife"

by Jonathan Ned Katz. Copyright (c) by Jonathan Ned Katz. All rights protected.

On October 1, 1901, an apparently male individual, Charles Winslow Hall, became seriously ill and died on the ocean liner which was bringing him home to America. Hall's illness and death resulted in the revelation of her female sex.

Reports of the "husband-wife" relationship of Hall and Giuseppina Boriani today suggest the likelihood of sexual relations between the partners, although the New York Times reports of this incident do not hint at any link between this female-female couple and what was often called "unmentionable vice."

Notable here is the incipient feminism in Caroline Hall's reported dissatisfaction with the "lack of opportunities in the world" for women, given as the motive for her transvestism.

The New York Times report reads:

BOSTON WOMAN POSED AS MAN WITH A WIFE

Sex of Liner's Passenger Revealed Through Fatal Sickness.

HAD LIVED TEN YEARS IN ITALY

An Artist and Had Won Prizes in Shooting Contests-

Said to Be Daughter of Col. Hall, U.S.A., Retired.

The strange story of a woman who preferred to pass for a man was revealed by the death of Miss Caroline Hall of Boston, a cabin passenger on the steamship Citta di Torino, which arrived from Naples and other Mediterranean ports on Sunday. On the passenger list Miss Hall appeared as "Mr. Charles Winslow Hall," and with her on the ship was Mrs. Hall, whom she spoke of as "my wife." It was not until "Mr." Hall was stricken with a mortal illness that the ship's surgeon made the discovery that the supposed man was a woman.
There was nothing about "Mr." Hall that would have led anyone to suspect her sex. She smoked cigars-big strong ones-and drank brandy. She was taken ill during the first part of the voyage and was forced to remain in her cabin until death claimed her early yesterday morning, a few hours after the vessel came into port. During her illness the supposed wife waited on her and continued to speak of her as her husband.
The dead woman was thirty-nine years old and is said to have been the only daughter of a Col. Hall, a retired army officer living in Boston, who is reputed[ly] wealthy. She was of slender build, medium height, and with a short crop of light hair, cut pompadour. She dressed well and carried herself with the air of a man. Her voice and gestures were masculine.
"Mr. and Mrs. Charles W.Hall" boarded the di Torino when that vessel was at Genoa, on Sept. 9. The vessel carried seventy-five cabin passengers. About one day after the vessel sailed "Mr." Hall was taken ill and forced to retire to her cabin. Her companion remained with the sick woman, who grew steadily worse, and Surgeons Giulio Angrisain and Nicola Rann had to be called in. They found the patient very low with consumption, and in making an examination Dr. Angrisain was astounded to find that "Mr." Hall was a woman.
She confessed her sex and begged the ship's surgeons not to make it public. She was informed that it was necessary to tell the Captain, and the doctors did so, though the sick woman earnestly requested them not to. None of the passengers, however, was aware that the sick "man" was a woman. "Mrs." Hall attended her companion until the end, and the latter continued to call her "wife."
"Mr." Hall is described by those who became acquainted with "him" on the voyage as being something of a "jolly fellow," who frequented the smoking saloon, talked sports and drank plenty of brandy.
The Coroner's office was notified of the death and a Coroner's physician last night visited the ship, and the body was removed to Swinburne Island, where an autopsy was performed. In the meantime "Mrs." Hall had telegraphed to her companion's father in Boston.
Early last evening the following telegram was received on board the vessel:
Boston Highlands, Sept. 30, 12: 30 P.M.
Miss Caroline Hall. Will be at steamship at 7 o'clock.
ALBERT J. (or G.) Hall.
Albert Hall is said to be cousin of the dead woman.
About 6 o'clock, it was learned, a cab drove up to the steampship pier and a man, who said he came from Boston, inquired very earnestly if "Caroline Hall" was aboard. He was sure she had been a passenger, and if she was not on the ship, he wanted to know what hotel she had gone to. Obtaining no satisfaction, the man went away, not saying what his name was.
All day long in the saloon of the Torino "Mrs." Hall remained near the dead, waiting for the latter's relatives to come for the body. She is an Italian woman of about thirty-five years of age, dark-eyed and with a rather good-looking face, surmounted by a mass of wavy dark hair. She cannot speak English and did not seem willing to tell all of the strange story. After much difficulty the following details were gathered about Caroline Hall and the strange relationship which existed between "Mr. and Mrs. Hall."
The dead woman had resided abroad for over ten years. Most of her time was spent in Italy, and three years ago she met Giuseppina Boriani at Milan. The two women became fast friends. About this time Caroline began to assert her belief that women were not afforded as many opportunities in the world as men. She was an artist, and in addition was an excellent rifle shot. It was easier for men to get about, she asserted, and after brooding for some time over the disadvantages of being a woman she decided to adopt male attire, and her friend humored her whim.

For over two years she traveled about as "Mr. Hall," and under that name entered several shooting contests and won prizes. Then again she went about the country painting and working at art and found that it was much easier going about alone when everyone believed she was a man. Just when the Boriani woman began to assume the role of "Mrs. Hall" is not clear.

Some time ago Miss Hall decided to return to Boston and see her father. He is eighty years old, and she thought that she might not see him alive unless she went at once. Her friend she asked to accompany her, and in order that she might better carry out her assumed role, Miss Boriani was entered on the ship's manifest as "Mrs. Hall." Miss Hall would have made the trip to Boston as "Mr. Hall" had not death overtaken her and revealed her secret."(1)

The Times of October 2 continues the story, giving additional information, and leaving readers wondering about the sad fate of Hall's "wife," Giuseppina Boriani.

"MR." HALL'S FATHER.

Woman Who Masqneraded as a Man Was a Daughter

Of J.R. Hall, a Boston Architect.

… A well-known Boston architect, J. R. Hall, is the father of Miss Caroline Hall, the artist, who died at sea while disguised as a man, and whose body is now in New York. Mr. Hall is not, however, a retired army officer. He has designed several important buildings here, including one of the theatres.
An aunt of the dead woman, at whose home the father lives, he being an invalid, admitted the identity to-day and said that the news had proved a great shock to Mr. Hall. In response to a question, the aunt, Miss Hall, said:

"All artists are more or less eccentric. I, at least, never knew of the eccentricity to which you refer."

The Veloce Line, to which the Citta di Torino belongs, received a message yesterday afternoon from a Mr. Hall of Boston, who said he would take charge of the body of the dead woman.
The steamship officials said they did not know what Miss Boriani, Caroline Hall's companion, would do, but they could say that she would not be a passenger on the Citta di Torino when it left this port.(2)

 

References

  1. New York Times, Oct. I, 1901, p. I, col. 3, "Carolina" Hall corrected to "Caroline."
  2. New York Times, Oct. 2, 1901, p. 10, col. 2