Ruth Fuller Field Chronology by Francisco Araujo da Costa
While translating The Stone Wall: An Autobiography (Kindle, paperback) into Brazilian Portuguese, I’ve been collecting as much as I possibly can about its author. What follows is every useful link and every scrap of info and every I could find about Ruth Fuller Field, née Ruth White Fuller, also known as “Mary Casal”.
An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to Sherry Ann Darling, who wrote A Critical Introduction to The Stone Wall: An Autobiography, PhD dissertation, Tufts University, Department of Drama, 2003, advised by professor Laurence Senelick. If anyone has Ms. Darling’s email address or other contact information, please let me know. I would really like to thank her for writing her dissertation. (This research in progress was first published on OutHistory on July 19, 2020 with the permission of the author. If anyone has additional information about Mrs. Ruth Fuller Field or anyone connected to her, or any additional images by, featuring or connected to her in any way, please let me know, and I’ll gladly add to this story with proper credit. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also email email@example.com and we will add your data to the timeline.) Link to Francisco Araujo da Costa's original publication which will be updated with the OutHistory version: https://medium.com/@ciscocosta/notes-on-ruth-fuller-field-mary-casal-pioneering-lesbian-autobiographer-4711f85c0e3b
Ruth Fuller Field Timeline
1864: Born Ruth White Fuller, June 17, 1864, to Joseph Negus Fuller and Lydia Ann White, in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Her cousin George, a close childhood friend, is born two months later, on September 18 (link).
1860s and 1870s: Grows up at the family farm, at the Southern edge of Deerfield, Mass. (painting, map). Does well in school. Socializes mostly with boys, especially brother Charles Arthur (1862-?) and cousins George Spencer (1863–1911), Robert Higginson (1864–1927) and Henry Brown Fuller (1867–1934).
1872-3: A neighbor and family friend, “Mr. Wiggins”, begins molesting her, and continues for several years.
1876: Starts attending the village school, possibly the then-decadent Deerfield Academy (Wikipedia, link). Starts spending the summer with her sister Mary Agnes and her husband, Luther Joshua Barker Lincoln, in Boston. There, Ruth has her first girlfriend.
1878 (approximately): Moves temporarily to the village when her father starts working out of town. Keeps corresponding with her girlfriend in Boston.
1879 (approximately): Falls in love with her female teacher. Has some sort of physical relationship with the teacher and with her sister’s sister-in-law, likely Mary Willard Lincoln (1847–1900).
1880: During the winter, spends time in Boston, helping take care of her ailing sister Mary, and is abused by her husband. She is with them in Boston during the summer, alongside her mother, for the 1880 census (link). Because of her brother-in-law’s sexual abuse, chooses not to go to college in Boston.
1881–2: Spends one last summer in Hingham, Mass., with her sister Mary and her husband. Socializes with John Davis Long, the recently-widowed then governor of Massachusetts. In September, leaves for college.
(An inconsistency: John Davis Long was widowed in 1882, but Ruth remembers socializing with him before going to college. She may be misremembering the order of events or conflating time spent with the governor before leaving for Illinois and during a summer break from college. The yearbook places her at the university already for the 1880-1881 period (link).)
1881–3: Attends Illinois Industrial University, currently University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where she studies Literature and Science. In 1882, as a sophomore, Ruth is the secretary of the student government’s legislative body (link). Is again abused by a brother-in-law, this time James Douglas Crawford, a professor at IIU. Becomes involved with “Flo”, a professor’s wife. Leaves IIU without graduating. Becomes engaged to a male classmate, who drops out after she refuses to marry him.
1884–1889: Works as a schoolteacher, first at a girls’ day school in Beacon Hill, later closer to home.
1889: Becomes pregnant in January. At Cold Brook, the Field family farm, becomes involved with “Gladys,” her husband’s young cousin. First child stillborn, dies without a name, September 24 (Darling thesis). Meets and becomes involved with “Mrs. Barr-Jones,” a New York society lady and actress. Late in the year, makes an extended visit to New York, where she becomes pregnant by the “Professor.”
1891: Second child stillborn, Ava Jane Field, July 14 (link). Marriage to Frank A. Field completely breaks down.
1892–1894: Frank A. Field eventually files for divorce, Ruth does not contest it. At first, starts teaching “Mrs. Barr-Jones’s” children in New York City, which turns into a little school. Later, invents and claims to patent a child’s toy with an advertisement, which she travels around the Northeast selling herself — an almost exclusively male profession.
1894: Staying at the Margaret Louisa Home, a Y.W.C.A. hotel on 14 East 16th Street, in July 1894, meets Emma Elizabeth Altman, who works there as a clerk (link). who becomes the love of her life and whom she calls “Juno”.
They stay together for at least 15 years. She drops the toy, marries Altman in a private ceremony just between the two of them, then goes back to holding a school in their apartment. Also works as a commercial artist in New York.
1895: Father, Joseph Negus Fuller, dies February 7 (link). Moves back to Deerfield with Emma Altman to help run the family farm.
1896–1898: Ruth works as a commercial artist and Emma at a private finishing school.
1899: Ruth and Juno meet Johnstone Bennett (“Little Ben”) and Vittoria Cremers (“Phil”). Ruth Fuller Field claims they met before Emma Altman started working for Helen Miller Gould and that “Little Ben” left for San Francisco. Bennett performed A Quiet Evening at Home, the same play they saw in New York, in San Francisco in the summer of 1899. Houdini was the undercard (link 1, link 2). The play opened in 1896, but returned often in the following years.
1900: Living on 145th street in the Harlem, New York, near Tenth Avenue, with Emma Elizabeth “Juno” Altman, Ruth’s widowed mother and a servant (Amanta Barnett, black, from North Carolina). Ruth is listed as an artist and a widow (though something else was written before “artist”, then erased), Emma as her boarder who works as a private secretary (census link).
1901: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac lists her as the secretary for Woody Crest, an outdoor home for boys maintained by heiress Helen Miller Gould, under the heading “Charitable Societies and Institutions — Relief of Children”. Her address as secretary is given as 579, 5th av. (link). Emma went to work for Ms. Gould one year before, so this is probably when Ruth joined her. A Miss Emma Elizabeth Altman is listed as part of the women’s law class at New York University (link).
1902: Still listed as Woody Crest secretary (link). She and Juno accompany their boss on trip to Jay Gould’s home town. They travel by automobile (link). Mother, Lydia Ann Fuller, dies January 14. She is buried alongside her husband at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Ruth visits Greenfield in April to oversee work in the cemetery (link).
According to the Greenfield Gazette, under Gould, “Mrs. Field has charge of the Young Men’s Christian Association department,” while “a Miss Altman [is in charge of] the educational department” (link).
1903: Still listed as Woody Crest secretary (link). They summer with their employer, and at some point “Mollie” starts to come between them. Ruth and Emma also visit cousin Henry Brown Fuller and his wife Lucia Fairchild Fuller, both painters, in the Cornish Art Colony in New Hampshire. They keep in touch over the years (Darling thesis). Ruth and Emma travel to St. Louis with their boss in December (link).
1904: As an examplar of “The Vital Temperament”, a photograph of Mrs. Ruth Fuller Field is featured in The Attainment of Womanly Beauty of Form and Features, a book edited by “practical phrenologist” Albert Turner. The article is written by his wife and colleague, Sarah C. Turner (book, link). Thus far, this is the only known photograph of Ruth Fuller Field.
1905: Elizabeth Altman is mentioned in newspapers as one of the best-paid women in America, with an annual salary of six to eight thousand, the equivalent of $170,000 to $230,000 in 2019 dollars, though the amount is probably overstated by the press (link 1, link 2). Helen Gould disbursed U$ 500,000 per year in charity (equivalent to U$ 15.5 million today), a work Altman helped manage. Therefore, it sounds like their work as private secretaries was closer to being executives at a big foundation today. Ruth and Emma quit Ms. Gould’s employ and decide to move to rural Connecticut, with occasional visits to New York City (link)
1906: Emma’s niece, the singer Ruth Elizabeth Altman, is born in March. In April, Johnstone Bennett dies. In early September, Ruth arrives at Carter House, in New Preston, Connecticut (link). In November, organizing night of entertainment to benefit St. Andrew’s Church, in Kent, Conn.(link). Plays a role in a play called The Chafing Dish Tragedy (link). In late November, friends from New York visit (link). The two meet “Jack”, a French teacher at the local school and a gay man. The school discussed by Ruth in The Stone Wall and where Jack taught may have been the Kent School, established in 1906 (link).
1907: Emma becomes engaged to “Jack” in January. Ruth’s health breaks down and she travels to England. She stays a few months with “Phil” and her lover in the spring. Ruth ends up spending two years in Europe. Later in 1907, moves to Bornemouth. Ruth sells an article to Cosmopolitan about her former boss, Helen Miller Gould, for several hundred dollars (link). Published in the October edition, newspapers write about her article in September (link). Emma and Jack break up, Emma travels to Europe and announces her engagement to Jack is back on. Emma winds up living in Europe, off and on, for eight years (link). They spend some time in London and Brussels before moving on to Paris in September (link).
(Possible inconsistency: Henry and Lucia’s daughter Clara, born March 14, 1895, writes in her journal about going up to the Cornish Art Colony with “Ruth and Miss Teddy” for Thanksgiving when she was 12 and seeing them on Christmas as well. (Darling thesis) Possible explanations: (1) It was some other Ruth; (2) It happened in 1906, when Clara was 11 and a half; (3) Ruth did not stay in Europe the whole two years; (4) there is a serious error in this timeline.)
1908: In Paris, Ruth works as secretary of the Paris Y.W.C.A., but is forced to resign in May after de-emphasizing the religious aspects of the organization (link):
TEA PARTIES SPLIT Y.W.C.A. OF PARIS; Mrs. Ruth Field, Once Associated with Helen Gould, Forced to Give Up Secretaryship. RELIGION SUBORDINATED Devoted Her Energies to Social Side of the Organization — Many Members, Sympathizing with Her, Resign.
Having resigned, she tries to organize “a Self-Help Club in which American and English girl stenographers in Paris, and other young business women, can find social diversion as well as moral training” (link).
Ruth becomes involved with “Scotty,” Emma with “Irish.” Emma and Ruth’s sexual relationship ends, and their friendship suffers further breakdowns. By October, resides at 4 Rue de Mont Thabor, a block from the Jardin des Tuileries and the right bank of the Seine (link, map).
1909: Arrives in the US again after spending two years in Europe. She spends a few weeks in New York and meets Flo and the Professor. Arrives in Kent, Conn., in March, accompanied by Flo’s father (link 1, link 2). The McMurtrie family rents a nearby house and Flo’s father dies in August (link). In September, is one of the judges at the Kent Grange pie contest (link). Ruth goes to work at The Incarnation Fresh Air and Convalescent Home, at Lake Mohegan, in Upstate New York, now known as Incarnation Center (link, official website). Emma visits once a year and they keep a correspondence.
1910: Douglas C. McMurtrie writes up a short case study of Ruth’s life and that of other gay men and women she knew, published in 1913 as Some Observations on the Psychology of Sexual Inversion in Women, in the American Journal of Urology (link). Case VII is Ruth. Case VIII is Emma. Case IX is “Jack”, Emma’s first fiance. Case X is “Mollie”, who becomes involved with Emma. Case VI is Johnstone Bennett. Case V, possibly Mary Graham, Bennett’s last lover.
1911: Emma applies for a new passport to return to Europe (link). She is described as 5'6½", hazel eyes, brunette complexion, brown hair.
1913: On October 7, Emma’s millionaire uncle dies, leaving her a U$50,000 bequest (Darling thesis). She travels back from Europe to settle her affairs and spends time with Ruth, arriving from Cherbourg, France, on October 25 (link).
Later in 1913, Douglas McMurtrie publishes further articles about homosexuality, drawing in part on his acquaintance with Ruth, including Principles of Homosexuality and Sexual Inversion in the Female (link).
1915 (approximately): Ruth moves to California. She may have stayed with her recently-widowed brother George, who lived in San Francisco (link).
Emma returns to Europe to close out her Paris apartment. The passport application gives us a picture of her at age 49. Her address in Paris is given in her business card: 16 Rue de la Grande Chaumière, in Montparnasse (link). The application also mentions attending the wedding of her dear friend in Ireland (the girl known as “Irish” in the last chapters of The Stone Wall). Emma arrives back in the U.S. in mid-July (link).
1917: Emma becomes involved with a married man, possibly Dr. Joseph R. Ross.
1917 or 1918: Ruth travels to New York at Emma’s brother’s request, worried about her involvement with a married man. As far as we know, this is the last time Ruth and Emma meet.
(Possible inconsistency: According to the Darling thesis, Ruth shares an apartment in New York City with Lucia Fairchild Fuller, her cousin Henry Brown Fuller’s ex-wife at this time. Possible explanations: (1) She simply stayed for a prolonged period with Mrs. Fairchild Fuller during this Christmas visit; (2) they shared an apartment earlier than that, after Ruth’s time in Lake Mohegan but before she moved to California.)
1919: Emma Elizabeth Altman marries Dr. Joseph R. Ross in Elkton, Md., on June 21st (link). He had previously been married to Laura Marie Misker in 1905 (link). It is not absolutely clear this woman is the same as “Juno”. Dr. Joseph Ross and Emma Elizabeth Ross are later found together in a patent application for an anal dilation device (link) and in his 1947 death certificate (link).
1920: Ruth is living alone in Calistoga, Napa, California. Listed as divorced. Works as the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce (link 1, link 2). Plays a witch for children on Halloween at the Calistoga Parlor 145 (link).
1923: Still working at the Calistoga District Chamber of Commerce, involved in infrastructure projects (link 1, link 2) and minor town affairs, such as judging a school yell contest (link) and getting a boat named after the city. Housesits in Oakland for six months (link).
1926: Visits San Francisco, accompanied by Mrs. Lucy Hopkins in November (link), a month after her brother George’s death in Napa.
1927: Ruth’s niece Lydia F. Fuller, George’s eldest daughter, is appointed for a position in the San Francisco school system, and is listed as having taught art in Napa (link).
1928–9: Writes The Stone Wall, prompted by Douglas Crawford McMurtrie.
1930: The Stone Wall published by Eyncourt Press. Still living in Calistoga. In the census, Ruth gives her profession as writer. She shares a home with Lucy B. Hopkins, 62, a widowed postmistress (her husband of 25 years had died in 1925). Their relationship is unclear; Lucy is the head of the household, Ruth is listed as “partner” (link).
1931: Still actively working with boys in the Napa community (link).
1935: Ruth falls and breaks her femur on February 21, dying from chronic myocarditis and arteriosclerosis on the 22nd, in Tujunga, California. Cremated, February 25. Death certificate states she had been living in California for 20 years. She still shared her last residence, 500 N Glendale Ave, Glendale, California, with Lucy, who provides the information in her death certificate (Darling thesis, link 1, link 2).
Important People in Ruth’s Life
Fuller Family: The Fullers have been in America since 1638, and Ruth was a member of its ninth generation in the country (link). When she was born, various branches still close to one another in Deerfield, Franklin County, Massachusetts (link).
Father: Joseph Negus Fuller (1824–1895), musician, music teacher and farmer, renowned for his voice. Second son of Aaron and Fanny Negus Fuller. Married wife Lydia in November, 1845. Taught music in Schenectady, New York, in the 1840s (link 1, link 2). According to family lore, Joseph was an alcoholic (Darling thesis). Very close to his younger daughter. Dies February 7, 1895.
Mother: Born Lydia Ann White (1823–1902), from Petersham, Mass. Dies from uterine cancer. Buried with her husband at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Montague, Mass. (link). Had nine children in a span of 18 years. More religious than her husband, lives for some time with Ruth and Emma in her final years.
Famous artist uncle: George Fuller (1822–1884), Joseph’s oldest full brother. In a very artistic family, George (link 1, Wikipedia) The Bars, the farm George Fuller ran, is still an active farm at 146 Mill Village Road in Deerfield, Mass.
Three brothers: Joseph Herbert (1853–1879). George Aaron Fuller (1855–1926) married Cora Whitney (1855–1915) and lived in California (link). Charles Arthur Fuller (1862-?), the leader of the boys when Ruth was a child. According to the 1913 McMurtrie paper, two out of the three grew up to be “dissipated and worthless.”
Three dead siblings: Wallace (1846–1861), Fanny Negus (1848–1861) and Frederick (1859–1862), all died within 9 months in 1861–2 (link 1, link 2). Wallace died from diphteria, Fanny from “catarrh of heart” and Frederick from membranous croup. George Fuller painted a portrait of Fanny when she was 12.
Sister whose husband molests her: Mary Agnes Fuller (1858-?). Marries Luther Joshua Barker Lincoln (1851–1902), listed as a merchant in the 1880 census, October 7, 1874 (link 1, link 2). Their son, John Willard, is born October 2, 1875. Ruth spends her summers with them as a teenager in Boston, at Otis Place, and decides to study in the Midwest partly to escape him.
Sister’s sister-in-law who dies in a mental institution: Mary Willard Lincoln (1847–1900). In her thesis, Sherry Ann Darling identifies her as a possible source for the pseudonym “Mary Casal.” A manuscript from her aunt to her mentions Joseph Negus, Ruth’s father (link). A second option would be Susan Willard Lincoln (1838-1895) (link).
Sister whose professor husband (“Peter”) also abuses her: Lydia Taft Fuller (1851–1887), married James Douglas Crawford (1847–1933), Professor of History and Ancient Languages, and librarian at the University of Illinois, April 17, 1873 (link). His father, the Reverend Robert Crawford from 1858 to 1882, assisted in marrying Ruth and Frank Field (link). He remarried in 1902, to Anne Richards, and moved to San Bernardino, California, where he died (link 1, link 2, link 3).
Massachusetts governor: John Davis Long (1838–1915). His diaries were key in discovering Mary Casal’s true identity. (Wikipedia, Darling Thesis) Long’s wife died in early 1882, but Ruth writes of meeting the recently-widowed governor before going to college in 1881.
“The Professor”: William McMurtrie. There’s an entry for him in the Biographical Dictionary of America (link). Here’s an obituary (link). Joined the faculty of Illinois Industrial University in 1883. Wikipedia article (link).
“Flo”: Helen Douglass McMurtrie (1855–1931), the Professor’s wife. They were married April 5, 1876. Daugther Helen Douglas died at 3 months of age (link). Son was born 1887 (see below). In 1910, was living in Manhattan, Ward 10, and her 22 year-old son was living with her (link). In 1930, was living in DC with her sister (link). The couple is buried together in Washington, DC (link). Helen’s father, John W. Douglass, was de facto mayor of Washington DC in the early 1890s (Wikipedia).
“Flo’s baby boy”: Douglas Crawford McMurtrie, editor of The Stone Wall. Born July 20, 1887, in Belmar, NJ (link). Died in 1944. His papers include correspondence about The Stone Wall (link). Wikipedia has an entry about him(link).
University president: Selim Hobart Peabody (born 20–8–1829, died 26–5–1903). In the 1881–2 university catalogue, “Regent, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics” (link). Wikipedia has an entry about him (link)
University president’s children: Grace (1853–1907), Cecil Hobart (1855–1942), Arthur (1858–1942), Kate Flemming (1861–1938) (link). In the IIU 1881–2 catalogue, Cecil is listed as “Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering”, younger son Arthur is an architecture student (Senior), and Kate F is a Junior (Literature and Science). Kate married a dentist on June 30, 1892, and died in a car crash (link).
Husband: Franklin Aretus Field (1851–1922), son of Franklin and Alma, married Ruth on October 12, 1887, in Montague, Mass. He was 36, she was 23. They were married by Rev. Peter Voorhees Finch, from Greenfield, Mass. (Link 1, link 2). He later moved to Boston and became a manufacturer and dealer in sweet and refined cider (link). In 1921 or 1922, Frank married Mary Louise Fleischmann, but died soon after the birth of their son, Frank H. Field (link).
“Juno”: Emma Elizabeth Altman, born September 13, 1866. The love of Ruth’s life.
Emma was the daughter of Morris Altman and Catherine Bowles. After her father died from cholera in 1876 (link), Emma and her siblings —Morris Philip (1868–1943), Cecelia Minas (1870–1930) and Phillip Frederic (1873–1972) — go live with their millionaire uncle Benjamin (link). Philip was probably the brother interested in art and the one closest to Ruth and Emma. He actually named his daughter “Ruth Elizabeth Altman” in 1906, and she became a Broadway actress.
Juno’s Millionaire Uncle: Benjamin Altman (1840–1913). The son of Bavarian Jewish immigrants to the U.S., Benjamin founded B. Altman and Company, a luxury department store. In today’s money, would have been a billionaire at the time of his death. A major art collector and philantropist. Raised the four Altman siblings after their parents die and helps raise his sister’s Sophia’s six children after her husband is murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Florida (Wikipedia, link 1, link 2).
“Little Ben”: Johnstone Bennett (1870–1906), theater actress and vaudeville star. In 1898, J.B. had a haberdashery in New York selling neckties and scarfs, but her involvement with the Johnstone Bennet Neckwear Company lasted less than a year (link 1, link 2). Bennett played in San Francisco again in October 1901, in A Female Drummer (link). Dies from tuberculosis.
“Phil”: Vittoria Cremers (1859-1937), born Vittoria Cassini. Wikipedia has an entry about her (link). Married Russian Baron Louis Cremers, a Rothschild, in 1886, and quickly separated (link). Involved with Theosophist Madame Blavatsky and Satanist Aleister Crowley, with whom she has a falling out. While pursuing author Mabel Collins , accuses her rival, Robert Donston Stephenson, of being Jack the Ripper. Alternates between living in New York City and the UK, eventually dies in England (link).
Ruth’s Final Companion: Lucy B. Hopkins, who shared a house with Ruth in Calistoga in 1930 and in Glendale at the time of her death. Their relationship is unclear; Ruth is listed as her partner in the 1930 census (link). Lucy was married for 20 years to Peter Hopkins, who died in 1925 (link 1, link 2, link 3).
The following have not been positively identified, but The Stone Wall provides us with enough information that those with access to the right materials — archives, family papers, maps, even yearbooks and phone books — might conceivably figure out who they were.
The University Fiancé: The gentleman drops out after his engagement to Ruth fails. Eighteen men from the 1881–1882 class are absent in the 1882–1883 yearbook: Thomas Aherin, Charles A Ailing, Benj A W Bartlett, Edward Brinkman, John C Carman, David B Carse, Frederic A Crandall, M L Dougherty, Charles H Kamman, Joseph S McCoy, Edward Meriwether, John B Moffett, Charles C Norman, Charles W Shurtleff, Benjamin F Sim, William H Smead, Frank L Wilmot, and Wilson E Womacks. The thwarted fiancé is likely one of them (link 1, link 2).
“Gladys”: A cousin of Frank A. Field, born circa 1867.
“Mrs. Barr-Jones”: One of the first New York society women to become an actress, active in the 1880s and 1890s. She was married and had three boys born in the 1880s.
The Toy: Ruth Fuller Field claims to have patented a paper-based toy and marketed it successfully around the Northeast in the 1890s, but the item itself has yet to be identified.
“Mollie”: Lived with her family in a hotel in Tarrytown, NY, in the 1900s. Ruth Fuller Field thought Altman could be reached by telephone when she met her, so a list of hotels and boardinghouses in Tarrytown from the time may help, especially one close to Lyndhurst.
“Jack”: The gay French teacher in Connecticut to whom Emma Altman becomes engaged. Twelve years younger than Emma, who was born in 1866, Jack was probably born between 1877 and 1879. Educated in Grenoble, Jack taught French in Litchfield County, Connecticut, in the late 1900’s, possibly at Kent School.
“Scotty”: A young Scottish woman, the former secretary at the Paris YWCA.
“Irish”: Emma’s companion from approximately 1908 to 1916. Emma travels to Europe for her wedding in the summer of 1916.