Who Was Jennie June? by Channing Gerard Joseph


Jennie June (above). From The Autobiography of an Androgyne.


IMAGE 1 (above): The 1920 U.S. Census search form with data filled in. To see a larger image, click here.


IMAGE 2 (above): The search yields five results. To see a larger image, click here.


IMAGE 3 (above): Jennie June, at age 34. From Autobiography of an Androgyne. To see a larger image, click here.

Saben 1950.png

IMAGE 4 (above): Mowry Saben in later life. From The San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 8, 1950. To see a larger image, click here.


IMAGE 5 (above): Jennie June, at age 44. From Autobiography of an AndrogyneTo see a larger image, click here.


IMAGE 6 (above): Jennie June, as an infant. From Autobiography of an AndrogyneTo see a larger image, click here.

October 10, 2022

A New Approach to Solving a Century-Old Queer-History Mystery

Analysis Using Census Data Finds the Secretive Memoirist Was Likely Mowry Saben,
a Forgotten 20th-Century Journalist & Early Defender of Sexual and Gender Diversity

“As a ghost writer, I have been somewhat more successful
than when writing under my own name.”
— Mowry Saben

In the early 20th century, a mysterious author known as Jennie June published two autobiographies and wrote a third,
 unpublished, manuscript. The trailblazing trilogy tells the author’s remarkable life story, describing first-hand experiences of gender nonconformity, sexual attraction, and physical intimacy with men from the 1870s to the 1920s — before today’s terms for sexual and gender identity had been invented. The books were shocking for the time, and the publisher restricted their sale to physicians, lawyers, and certain other professionals in order to avoid obscenity laws.

The titles are The Autobiography of an Androgyne (published in 1919[0]), The Female-Impersonators (published in 1922), and The Riddle of the Underworld (unpublished). They are historically significant because they are among the earliest-known memoirs written by a self-identified “fairie,” “invert,” or “androgyne.”

Scholars have been puzzling over the author’s identity for well over a century — since U.S. Army doctor Robert W. Shufeldt first described him in a 1905 journal article about “perverts.” Seventy-one years later, historian Jonathan Ned Katz republished excerpts of Jennie June’s work in Gay American History (1976), captivating another generation of queer-history scholars. And more than three decades after that, Dr. Randall Sell of Drexel University rediscovered the lost Riddle of the Underworld manuscript, providing a wealth of possible new clues to investigate. 

In the ensuing years, however, researchers have made little progress toward finding a convincing answer to the question “Who was Jennie June?” — until now.

The groundbreaking new analysis I present here combines extensive original archival research with a fresh look at demographic data supplied by Jennie June himself. With this information, I have been able to limit the scope of the investigation to people whose personal traits match what we know about the author. 

The results of my analysis show that Jennie June was most likely Mowry Saben, a Harvard-educated journalist, book author, essayist, and lecturer, who spoke favorably and publicly about same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity in his 1914 book, The Spirit of Life. In doing so, Saben demonstrated a remarkable frankness and courage for his era. 

Saben shared Jennie June’s apparent personality traits, educational background, fondness for travel, and intellectual interests. Moreover, Saben’s only sister was named Jennie May, a fact that, combined with others, is certainly suggestive.

More than a century ago, Jennie June hid his birth name because revealing it may have meant prison time, job loss, or other dire consequences in the late 19th- and early 20th-century United States. But revealing that name now (along with other personal details and photographs), long after the pioneering author’s death, allows us to see him in his world and to celebrate his life.

The discovery is also likely to lead to the identification of other figures in his social circle and to shed light on the sexual and gender subcultures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

An Important Note on Pronouns & Terminology

Jennie June, assigned male at birth, referred to himself most often using the pronouns “he,” “him,” and “his,” so I honor his usage here. For the sake of simplicity, I call him Jennie June rather than repeating all of the names he used. (He published under the names Ralph Werther, Jennie June, and Earl Lind, and he used the names Raphael Werther and Pussie in other contexts.)

Throughout the trilogy, Jennie June described himself in various ways, including as a “fairie,” an “androgyne,” an “ultra-androgyne,” a “passive invert,” an “effeminate man,” and a “bisexual” (by which he meant that he had female and male characteristics).

Although some historians have described him as “gay” and as “transgender,” using those and other modern identity terms can be misleading because people of his era embraced different identity categories. They also thought about gender and sexual desire in ways that were substantially different from what we now find familiar.

At the time the author was writing, the term “gay” was not yet in wide use as a descriptor for someone experiencing same-sex attraction, and the terms “transgender,” “gender-nonconforming,” “nonbinary,” “genderqueer,” and “genderfluid” had not been coined.

People of his time did not always think of gender identity as separate from sex identity or sexual identity. In fact, the evidence indicates that Jennie June thought of “gender” and “sexual orientation” as inextricably linked. In his conception, the sexual desire that an ultra-androgyne (such as himself) felt for a man was very much part of what made the ultra-androgyne “feminine.” At no point in the trilogy does Jennie June appear to conceive of one’s femininity (or masculinity) as separate from one’s sexual desires.

This difference in worldview has been discussed at length by other scholars. The historian George Chauncey made the following observation in the preface to the 2019 edition of Gay New York: “In the early twentieth century, what today we might distinguish as ‘homosexuality’ and ‘transgenderism’ were intimately linked; indeed, neither of those terms, simply transposed from our own era, captures the complexity or alterity of that era’s categories of experience and identity.”

Therefore, using 21st-century identity terms rather than the terms he chose to define himself erases crucial historical context and puts our words in his mouth. In fact, it is an act of violence that dismisses, disrespects, and invalidates Jennie June’s own autonomy to self-define while also failing to capture the nuances of his carefully chosen self-descriptions.

It is therefore my practice here to use only the identity terms the author himself used.

U.S. Census Data & Ancestry.com

The U.S. Census is the federal government’s once-a-decade effort to identify and collect demographic information on every living U.S. resident. The survey records each person’s name, address, age, marital status, race, occupation, relationship to the head of household, and so on.

The information remains confidential until 72 years after it is collected. As of October 2022, every census conducted between 1790 and 1950 is currently available to the public. Ancestry.com is a paid service that enables searches of that census data.

Like millions of other U.S. residents, Jennie June was most likely recorded in the U.S. Census under his legal name. This means that if we enter the appropriate demographic data, that legal name is likely to appear in the results of an Ancestry search, providing us with a finite universe of names to investigate further.

As I demonstrate, the searches that I conducted yielded several names. But after a careful evaluation of all the candidates, I conclude that Mowry Saben is the most likely to have been Jennie June.

Assessing What We Know About Jennie June

Because elements of Jennie June’s memoirs were deliberately falsified to hide the author’s identity, it might appear to be impossible to distinguish fact from fiction. However, this is not quite the case. 

Dr. Alfred W. Herzog, the editor and publisher of Jennie June’s first two books, said in an introductory note that “the author offers the Autobiography of an Androgyne as a plain chronological statement of facts slightly covered to hide his identity” (my italics).[1]

I therefore infer that any vital data likely to identify the author, such as his birthdate or birthplace, are likely to be false, but only “slightly” altered; that is, the information is likely to still be relatively close to the truth.

Jennie June made the following statements that, if true, would have helped us to identify him relatively easily long ago:

  • That he was born in 1874.
  • That he was raised in a village in Connecticut.[2]
  • That he graduated from a large prep school and then attended a university in New York until he was expelled. (“At sixteen, I entered a college in New York City,” he wrote, adding: “My father gave me every educational advantage because in the fairly large ‘prep’ that I attended from my tenth to sixteenth years, I attained the highest scholarship in the history of the school.” Later, he wrote: “One physician brought about my expulsion from the university.”)[3]
  • That the university was “uptown” (strongly hinting that the school was Columbia University).[4] 

But because the information Jennie June offered is “slightly covered” to hide the truth, we can deduce that the author’s real birthdate is close to 1874 but not 1874, and that the author’s real birthplace is close to Connecticut but not Connecticut. It seems reasonable to infer that it may be a neighboring New England state (namely, Massachusetts or Rhode Island), given the author’s repeated references throughout the trilogy to his “puritan” upbringing.

Considering Jennie June’s writing ability, familiarity with elite society, and vast knowledge of many subjects, we can also infer that the author probably attended a university, though not necessarily Columbia, and not necessarily a university in New York City.

As with other personal data that could be used to identify him, Jennie June would have hidden the university that he attended. In fact, if he had actually attended a university in New York City, there would have been a significant risk that a former classmate would recognize him, and out him, based on the photos and stories he shared in The Autobiography of an Androgyne and The Female-Impersonatorswhich were published in New York City. By suggesting falsely that he had attended Columbia, Jennie June could have some assurance that anyone trying to uncover his identity would look in the wrong place.

Facts Confirmed by Other Sources

Some facts about Jennie June are trustworthy because they are confirmed by a source other than Jennie June (e.g., Herzog and others).

This set of facts includes the following:

  • Jennie June presented as a man and would have been listed as “male” on the U.S. Census.

Dr. Herzog described Jennie June as someone who presented publicly as a man with feminine traits and whose identity as an “androgyne” was only apparent to those with special knowledge, “the gnoscenti.” Herzog wrote: “His manner was always very gentlemanly and inoffensive. … From his appearance and manners he can, by the gnoscenti, be easily recognized as an Androgyne.”[5]

In addition, Jennie June said of himself: “The writer, much against his will, was brought up as a boy, and after becoming adult continued in every-day life to identify himself with the male sex because of his beard and masculine voice, and because of the advantages of passing as a male; but in spite of himself he was occasionally compelled to go off on a female-impersonation spree.”[6]

Next, we know that:

  • Jennie June presented as “white” and would have been recorded as such on the census.[7]

Had the author not been “white,” it is inconceivable — given the time period — that his race, and the legal and social barriers presented by segregation and racism in the United States, would not have been discussed at length — by Jennie June himself, by Herzog, and, most especially, by Shufeldt, who was an avowed racist and the author of the 1915 screed America’s Greatest Problem: the Negro

Crucially, we also know that:

  • Jennie June was based in New York in 1920.

    That is, we know that he was in New York between 1918 (when he and Herzog were preparing Androgyne for publication) and 1921 (when they were preparing to publish The Female-Impersonators).[8]

    Here is why we know:

    First, Herzog lived and worked in Manhattan, at 123 West 83rd Street, and Jennie June’s two books were published in New York City, in 1919 and 1922.[9]

    Second, Herzog and Jennie June preferred to meet in person to discuss the manuscripts rather than corresponding through the mail. In the introduction to Androgyne, dated October 1918, Herzog wrote: “I have seen him [Jennie June] during the preparation of the work a score of times.”[10]

    If Jennie June was available to meet with Herzog “a score of times” — that is, about 20 times — in the preparation of Androgyne, then Jennie June was most likely living nearby rather than traveling from some distance outside the city. 

    Third, in “A Protest From an Androgyne,” a letter to the editor published in the July 1919 edition of The American Journal of Urology and Sexology, Jennie June testified that “a few days ago,” he was “seated near the lake in Central Park,” i.e., he was in New York City.

    Fourth, the staff of Medical Review of Reviews placed Jennie June in New York in 1921 when he submittedA Fairie’s Reply to Dr. Lichtenstein” — a letter printed in the November 1921 issue of Medical Review of Reviews, a monthly magazine published by Victor Robinson in New York City.

    Lastly, Jennie June’s own testimony in The Female-Impersonators indicated that he had access to New York newspapers and journals, from which he repeatedly quoted. He was also familiar with New York City’s neighborhoods and landmarks, of which he provided several photographs.[11]

    Facts Inferred From Context

    There is also information that we can infer from known facts, the content of Jennie June’s work, and the historical context of their publication.

    First, we can deduce that

    • He was unmarried and had no children. We can also infer from context that he lived a rather solitary life

    Jennie June did not mention any female love interests or sexual partners aside from an unsuccessful “scientific experiment” that he pursued “after his thirty-third birthday.” Of that “experiment,” which may have involved more than one encounter, he wrote: “Up to this time the very thought was too repulsive. … Penetration was of course impossible.” In another place, he noted: “On such occasions, we were as two sisters reclining together. Sexually we were mutually abhorrent.”[12]

      However, Jennie June described various sexual relationships with male partners, including at least two young men who briefly lived with him as his “adopted son[s].”[13]

      Also, Dr. Alfred Herzog, the author’s publisher, was convinced that Jennie June was not capable of changing his desires or behavior. If the doctor had believed Jennie June was married, or could have ever been married, to a woman, that fact would have raised doubts about Jennie June’s statement that he could not control his sexual desire for men. Herzog expressed no such doubts, writing that “[Jennie June] has shown how the homosexualist who does not do because he wills but who does because he must, is exploited by the criminal classes.”

      In addition, the author’s frequent travel to faraway cities and countries, as well as the elaborate double-life he described in his three memoirs, suggests that he led a solitary life — and thus the U.S. Census probably recorded him as living alone.

      Consider the following passage from The Female-Impersonators, pages 94-5, and how difficult it would be for a person sharing a home with a partner, adult relatives, or friends to maintain four separate identities:

      “On a single day I have had to sign myself with four different names,” he wrote. “Always after writing my signature, I must review it painstakingly to make sure I have put down the proper one. Only once I have made a mistake. In receipting for a registered letter addressed ‘Earl Lind, General Delivery,’ I signed my legal name. To the clerk’s inquiry I replied that I had been authorized by Lind. He sent word to Lind for written authorization, which was promptly despatched. I have had to acquire two entirely distinct handwritings—the second for my numerous love letters. None were ever written more mushy than those of ‘Jennie June’ and I guarded against their ever being traceable to the intellectual and puritan ‘Ralph Werther’ (by which name I refer to my every-day self in my books). I have often, within an hour, written letters in the two different hands.”[14]

      Second, we can infer that:

      • Jennie June was a professional author and editor in the field of journalism

      In The Female-Impersonators, he described some of the details of a journalistic reporting assignment, writing that he “was delegated to write up an unusual affair transpiring in a Rocky Mountain wilderness.” He added: “I exhibited my credentials as representative of a journal of national reputation.” 

      Elsewhere in The Female-Impersonators, Jennie June emphasized that he was not simply an occasional writer but quite an accomplished one:

      “Francis Bacon published extensively under his own name. He published extensively — as a large body of literateurs believe — under the name of ‘William Shakespeare.’ Just as the present writer has quite a number of publications under his legal name, and a number under the name ‘Ralph Werther — Jennie June.’ And no one suspects the identity of the two present-day authors.”[15]

      Years later, in The Riddle of the Underworld, on pages 6-7 of the section titled “Voyeurism,” he again referenced his journalism career in a description of a former colleague, writing: “During the five years of our collaboration, we were both on the staff of a large periodical.”

      In discussing this colleague and one other, he added:

      “These two sexual freaks (and geniuses into the bargain) happened to be professional writers. But they constitute no evidence that such freaks are unusually numerous in that profession. I merely discovered them in that profession because most of my own bread-winning career has been staged there. … One of my tasks was to edit articles.

      Jennie June’s own assertion that he was a professional editor and a widely published author under his legal name is given credence by the intelligence, erudition, clarity, fluidity, and polish of the writing in his trilogy.

      In addition, we have further evidence from Herzog, who decided that “The Autobiography of an Androgyne would serve its mission best unedited, and so it practically remains.”

      About The Female-Impersonators, Herzog wrote that the book was “published practically as its author wrote it.”

      My own years of experience as a professional writer and editor — as well as a professor of journalism at several major universities — have shown me that even the most seasoned writers would find it challenging to produce a publication-worthy book without the need for revision and copy editing. The fact that Herzog was able to publish two of Jennie June’s books without editing them is strong evidence that Jennie June was quite an experienced author indeed.

      In addition, in reading the typed manuscript of The Riddle of the Underworld, Jennie June’s own handwritten changes are visible. In making these changes, he used standard proofreading symbols throughout, demonstrating his thorough knowledge of professional editing standards and practices. (Such proofreading marks are also present in some of Saben’s private letters.)[16]

      Third, we can infer that:

      • Jennie June had some legal training. 

      The end of the Riddle of the Underworld manuscript includes a six-page publishing contract written by Jennie June himself (using the alternate pseudonym Ralph Werther). An examination of the content, structure, and style of the document establishes that its author possessed legal knowledge, a facility with the language of the law, and a familiarity with contracts. 

      The draft agreement, which was never signed, would have required Dr. Victor Robinson, the publisher of Medical Life, to publish Riddle in 12-15 monthly installments from March 1921 to 1922. But the manuscript was never published — neither as a book nor as a serial.

      The document begins with the heading “AGREEMENT BETWEEN DR. VICTOR ROBINSON AND MR. RALPH WERTHER re: SERIAL PUBLICATION IN ‘MEDICAL LIFE’, OF WERTHER’S WORK: ‘THE RIDDLE OF THE UNDERWORLD.’” It is then subdivided into various sections marked by letters — (A) General Conditions, (B) Werther’s Compensation, (C) Time of Serial and Book Publication, etc.). Those subsections are then divided into paragraphs marked by numbers — 1, 2, 3, etc.

      It uses the same typeface and line spacing as the rest of the manuscript and contains the same proofreading marks. Like the rest of the manuscript, it also features several notable peculiarities, like the author’s tendency to forgo spaces after commas, semicolons, and occasionally periods.

      Within the document, Jennie June referred to himself in the first person. When addressing the “Manner of Printing,” the author wrote that “no extra space shall appear between paragraphs as in my article in the Dec. 1920 MEDICAL LIFE” (my italics) — confirmation that he drafted the agreement himself.

      Moreover, Jennie June asserted that he had once worked in the legal profession — an assertion given credence by his ability to draft the publishing contract. 

      More specifically, the author wrote in The Female-Impersonators that he had been hired on the spot by “one of the leading criminal lawyers in the country.” That lawyer, he claimed, knew him only by the alias Earl Lind, not by his birth name. In the Riddle manuscript, he at last identified the lawyer as Clark Bell, a well-known New York figure who died in 1918. 

      “I was employed by Clark Bell, LL.D., founder and for many years editor of Medico-Legal Journal,” he scribbled in the margin of the typed document. “I once gave Dr. Herzog, its present editor, indisputable proof that I had been in the employ of Clark Bell. I refer to Dr. Herzog on this point. … I attended the criminal courts in Centre Street with Clark Bell as his clerk when he was defending criminals.”[17]

      Conducting a Search of the U.S. Census Records

      Armed with the above information, we are now able to take advantage of both the power of search technology and the voluminous information recorded in the United States Census. The search engine provided by Ancestry.com is particularly useful because, unlike most other search tools, it is specifically designed to enable searches using information that is not exact. Thus, the “slightly covered” data provided by Jennie June to hide his identity is still useful for our research purposes.

      That said, Ancestry.com is a for-profit service, so without a paid subscription, the service is often not possible to use outside of a library. Therefore, I provide screenshots here to show the search form (IMAGE 1) and the results of the search that I conducted (IMAGE 2).

      We start by navigating to Ancestry’s search page for:

      • (1) the 1920 U.S. Census because this is the only census year for which we know Jennie June’s location of residence. 

      To conduct the search using the known data about Jennie June, we fill in Ancestry form fields for:

      • (2) “birth year” [1874],
      • (3) “[birth] location” [Connecticut],
      • (4) “lived in” [residence location in 1920, i.e., New York],
      • (5) “marital status” [single],
      • (6) “occupation” [author],
      • (7) “gender” [male], and
      • (8) “race/nationality” [white].

      For all but the “birth year” and “birth location” fields, we click the box indicating that we want only “exact” matches. For “birth year,” we choose “+/- 5 years,” because the date we have, 1874, is “slightly covered.” For “birth location,” we should choose “state and adjacent states” because the location we have, Connecticut, is also “slightly covered.”

      Although it is conceivable that Jennie June might have listed his occupation as something other than “author” (for example, “writer,” “journalist,” or “reporter”), he refers to himself repeatedly in the trilogy as “the author” and “your author.” Only occasionally does he call himself “the writer” or “the present writer” and rarely if ever does he refer to himself as an “editor,” “journalist,” or “reporter.” This demonstrates that he was in the habit of listing his occupation as “author.” 

      See IMAGE 1 for what the fields look like after they are filled in. See IMAGE 2 for the search yielding the following five results, discussed below.

      Analyzing the Results

      The search described above yielded the following five candidates:

      1  BELLINGER: The first candidate, Willard E. Bellinger, lived in New Hartford, New York, about 242 miles away from Midtown Manhattan, too far away to meet with Herzog in person “a score” of times in preparation of a manuscript. Thus, Bellinger can be removed from further consideration.

      2  DELAMATER: The second candidate, Arthur G. Delamater, was a playwright, lyricist, and producer. Delamater billed himself as a “producer of clean plays,” who avoided controversial topics.[18] Though listed as single in 1920, Arthur had married an Amy Lee Watkins in 1899, according to church documents available on Ancestry.com, and in 1910 was married to a Bertha G. Delamater, according to the U.S. Census. Since we have reason to believe that Jennie June did not marry a woman, we can eliminate Delamater as a likely contender. Also, Delamater was a playwright and not an essayist, and his style of writing, choice of genre, and desire to avoid controversy are distinctly dissimilar from Jennie June, who was a flowery essayist (and sometimes poet), who embraced controversy.

      4  MACHUGH: The fourth candidate, Augustin MacHugh, was a playwright best known for Officer 666: A Melodramatic Farce in Three Acts. In 1920, MacHugh lived in Brooklyn with his sister and brother-in-law, not an ideal situation for someone who claimed to be bringing young male lovers home. Also, like Delamater, MacHugh was a playwright and not a writer of well-researched commentary.

      5  BROWNE: The fifth candidate, Cordelia B.F. Browne, an author of musical scores and operettas, is listed as living with a daughter, Brooks Browne. The census itself also lists Cordelia as “female,” though an unexplained update has been added to the Ancestry database indicating that another researcher believes that this person may have been male. That update, perhaps made in error, is the reason this person appears in the search results. Investigating further, we find that the same Cordelia Browne was recorded as female, and as the mother of Brooks Browne, on the 1910 U.S. Census as well. For these reasons, we can eliminate Browne from further consideration.

      3  SABEN: The third candidate, whom I have saved for last, is Mowry Saben — a very experienced author, who shared numerous commonalities with Jennie June.

      Saben was born in 1870 to “Puritan” parents in Massachusetts (a New England state neighboring Connecticut). Saben briefly studied law before being expelled from a university and cut off financially by his father. He never married, and he lived alone in a rented apartment on West 12th Street, in Greenwich Village, in Manhattan in 1920. 

      Saben was a prolific and polished essayist, who enjoyed writing about philosophy, spirituality, gender, and sexuality and who did not shy away from addressing controversial topics. In fact, he was an early defender of same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity in his writings and lectures. 

      In private letters, Mowry Saben repeatedly mused about one day publishing “a book of confessions.” Sadly, he never did so — at least not under his legal name.[19]

      Through my original archival research (described below), I demonstrate that Saben and Jennie June shared many telling personal traits, viewpoints, and life experiences. The substantial body of evidence that I lay out strongly points to Mowry Saben as the most likely author of the works attributed to Jennie June.

      Using Other ‘Occupation’ Keywords

      I have conducted additional searches using terms such as “writer,” “editorial writer,” “journalist,” “reporter,” “essayist,” “newspaperman,” and “editor” in the “occupation” field instead of “author.” Each time I conducted such a search, I investigated the resulting names using Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank.com, Newspapers.com, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Archive.org, Hathitrust.org, Worldcat.org, Google.com, and other sources in an effort to discover more information about each author, including their photographs and publications.

      I paid particular attention to writers who published essays before 1922 (the publication date of The Female-Impersonators, the book in which Jennie June first claims to have many works published under his legal name). Also, for reasons explained above, I paid particular attention to writers who lived alone and writers who were born near but not in Connecticut — especially those born elsewhere in New England, given Jennie June’s emphasis on his “puritan” upbringing.

      For some of the resulting names, I was unable to find any published books or bylined articles. Since Jennie June probably published a significant amount under his legal name, any candidate without publications can be eliminated. But among the names for which there are such publications, I encountered three intriguing candidates on whom I did extensive additional research. They appear in search results when “editor” is used as the “occupation” keyword.

      Unlike Saben, none of these candidates had any legal training, which we know Jennie June must have had. In addition, none had a “Puritan” upbringing, none were born in New England, and none were expelled from a university or disinherited by their families. For these reasons and others explained below, I have concluded they were not Jennie June

      They are: 

      Of the remaining names appearing in the results of various searches, I found none that were as promising as these, so I omit them for the sake of brevity. However, I encourage other researchers to investigate the search results yielded by these and other possible “occupation” keywords. 

      The Early Life of Mowry Saben

      His full name was Israel Mowry Saben*, and he was born in the town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on March 24, 1870, to Israel and Lydia Jane Saben. A sister, Jennie May, was three years his junior, and a brother, William, was 11 years younger.

      Saben himself described his family as “Puritan,” an adjective associated with a specific group of conservative Christian Protestants in New England. 

      In a private letter, Saben called himself “a disillusioned child of the Puritans.” His father, he added, was “an austere Puritan if ever there was one,” who had disinherited him for being “untamable.” 

      Jennie June described his own family in a similar way, testifying that he had been rejected by his father and cut off financially. In The Female-Impersonators, Jennie June wrote: “I myself … spring from the most puritan stock. I was brought up to consider that on Sunday, reading anything but Christian doctrine or walking a hundred feet for mere pleasure were heinous sins.” In Androgyne, he asserted, “my father … began to treat me regularly with extreme bitterness, as if he wished I had never been born. ... Nor could I even apply to my father for money. Since soon after my arrest two years prior ... he had, as already described, displayed a pronounced antipathy for me.”

      Also like Jennie June, who said he attended a large boys’ prep school, Saben went to Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.[20]

      Study at Harvard & Elsewhere

      Saben attended Harvard for less than two years, beginning in 1891. He first enrolled in the college and then in the law school.[21] 

      At Harvard, he befriended Edwin Arlington Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, with whom he remained in touch for years afterward, and who, he later suggested, was bisexual and repressed.[22] The scholar Richard Cary noted that Saben “did eat, drink, and whore to his heart’s content while in college,” though Cary did not specify the sex of Saben’s partners. Although Saben never publicly discussed his own sexual desires, the Edwin Arlington Robinson biographer Scott Donaldson has written that Saben was “probably bisexual” (by which he meant that Saben was probably sexually attracted to men and women).

      Some of Robinson’s remarks also suggest he believed (or knew) that Saben was sexually attracted to men: In an 1896 letter to another friend, Robinson wrote: “If any man but Saben had told the yarn, I might have doubted, but if he told me that he had put the Emperor to bed, I should believe him.”[23] 

      Like Jennie June, Saben was expelled from one university before continuing his studies elsewhere. 

      In The Autobiography of an Androgyne, Jennie June claimed to have been expelled after a school official discovered his “inversion.” He wrote: “The wreck of my happy and highly successful student career was now brought about by a physician whom I had consulted in hope of a cure for my inversion. ... He happened to number the president of the university among his friends, and whispered to him that I ought not to be continued as a student. I was immediately expelled.”

      Later, Jennie June referred to himself as a “university graduate,” saying he had earned a bachelor’s degree and gone on to graduate studies.

      As for Saben, the reason for his expulsion from Harvard remains murky, but the evidence is consistent with his possibly being outed to the faculty and to the Cambridge police. In private letters, Robinson wrote that Saben was expelled after the local police broke up a “jovial” all-male gathering at Saben’s room in February 1892. Robinson was there when the authorities arrived, but the police did not explain why they were breaking up the party. “The worst part of the whole matter,” he wrote, “is that we did nothing to warrant such action.”

      It is not clear if Saben ever told Robinson, or any of his other classmates, the reason for his expulsion. In the absence of further information, Robinson speculated that Saben may have been expelled because of low grades.

      For a time, Saben considered trying to regain admission as a divinity student but by October 1893 had decided against it. Robinson wrote: “He thinks his past life and reputation there would render it impossible for such a course to be taken seriously by either the students or the faculty.” 

      In 1894, Saben traveled to England to attend Oxford. He later went to Germany to study at the University of Heidelberg. He spent several years in Europe.[24] 

      U.S. Lectures

      When Saben returned to the United States, he began teaching on “on various literary, ethical, and philosophical subjects,” with public talks about “Walt Whitman, the Poet of Democracy” and Havelock Ellis’ Studies in the Psychology of Sex. The lectures earned him a reputation as “thoroughly unconventional” and “a radical of the radicals.” In 1901, The Philadelphia Inquirer included Saben in a list of speakers who make no secret of their belief in anarchism.[25]

      From 1898 to 1903, he testified to living a “Bohemian, or semi-Bohemian existence,” traveling and lecturing in cities across the country, including Helena, Montana; Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Maine; Bangor, Maine; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Camden, New Jersey. In 1903, he published The Twilight of the Gods, an essay based on one of his lectures in Philadelphia.

      Saben said that he “visited nearly every State in the Union.”[26]

      Writing Career & Travel

      Eventually, Saben began a career in journalism that, like lecturing, took him to many different regions of the country.

      In about 1900, he began working for The Conservator, edited by Horace Traubel, in Philadelphia. Over the next two decades, he worked as an editorial writer on the staffs of The Tacoma (Washington) Daily NewsThe Portland (Oregon) TelegramThe Denver RepublicanThe Detroit Free PressThe Kansas City PostThe Chicago Journal; and The Rochester (New York) Herald. He also freelanced for The New York TimesThe Boston TranscriptThe Baltimore AmericanThe Louisville Courier-Journal, Neale’s Monthly, and Mitchell Kennerley’s The Forum

      In July 1913, the editors of Neale’s Monthly described Saben as “one of the most vigorous essayists of our day.”[27]

      A love of travel and a tendency to stay on the move are among the many things that Saben shared with Jennie June. 

      “With the exception of Jack London and half-a-dozen widely traveled men,” Jennie June wrote, “I have had the most adventurous life of any writer of the twentieth century.” Elsewhere, he said that he had traveled extensively through “every corner of the United States and Europe” and had “resided in nearly every city of the United States and Europe of over 200,000 inhabitants.”[28]

      Government Service & Later Life

      Saben did some work for the U.S. House of Representatives in May and June of 1919. He was listed as a “janitor” to the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, but, according to congressional records, “very few of the persons appointed as janitors actually perform janitor work.” He may have done writing or editing instead.

      Despite his government work, Saben did not move to Washington, D.C., initially. He was a Manhattan resident on Jan. 12, 1920. But over the next several years, he split his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

      From April to December 1921, records from the House of Representatives show Saben’s “place of employment” was D.C. and that he was paid $80 per month for work as a “clerk” on the immigration committee. 

      “I had nothing to do, but draw my salary,” Saben told a friend.

      With so much free time on his hands, he continued to do a lot of writing, including a series of polemics against socialism. But just as Saben’s time was being divided between New York and Washington, there was an unexplained delay in the release of Jennie June’s second book, The Female-Impersonators. Jennie June wrote that the book was set to go to press in December 1921 — a statement that Dr. Herzog would have corrected if untrue — but it was not released until October 1922, a full ten months later.[29] 

      In 1924, Saben left the U.S. and spent some time in Montreal, Canada. 

      He returned to New York that same year for treatment of a fistula, a medical condition from which he had suffered since roughly 1916. A fistula is an abnormal tunnel between the anal canal and the skin around the anus, and can sometimes develop as a rare complication of anal sex. Saben’s treatment involved undergoing a number of surgical procedures over the course of a year, including the removal of a hemorrhoid.

      On April 16, 1926, he was appointed an assistant to Secretary of Labor James J. Davis. The position was based in New York City, and his title was “Commissioner of Conciliation,” but unlike other such commissioners, who led negotiations over labor disputes, Saben was responsible for ghostwriting the secretary’s speeches and other communications.

      Saben held that position until 1929. 

      Although the appointment was based in New York, by then he had a residence in Washington: He is listed in a D.C. directory in 1927 and 1929, and he is recorded on the U.S. Census in D.C. in 1930.

      He then was “the ghost for a senator for a year.”[30]

      After he left the government, he took a job as an editor at The Argonaut in San Francisco, California.[31]

      For a time before his death on Oct. 7, 1950, he was also a contributing editor to Truth Seeker, the “official organ of the National Liberal League.”[32]

      Never married, Saben was survived by his sister, Jennie May Saben Burnap, and a niece. An inquest was held into Saben’s death after the hospital reported that Saben may have been given a transfusion with the wrong blood type, but a coroner’s jury ruled that Saben died from “complications of heart, liver and kidney ailments.”[33]

      Secrets & Confessions

      Saben appears to have had secrets that he wanted to keep hidden, even in death. Among the Ernst Bacon Papers at Stanford University is an undated letter to Bacon from Arnold T. Schwab, then a professor of English at California State University, Long Beach. Schwab, who was trying to locate Saben’s papers, wrote: “His [Saben’s] niece has informed me that at the time of his death in San Francisco … a friend of his removed his papers from his apartment; she doesn’t know the friend’s name.”

      Although his personal papers have been lost, some surviving letters to friends and colleagues clearly show that he felt deeply conflicted about revealing some difficult or controversial truth. 

      In 1924, for example, he told Mitchell Kennerley that some of his friends mistakenly viewed him as “an almost saintly individual.” But, Saben added: “If I were to write an absolutely truthful book of confessions, telling what I have done, etc., they would refuse to believe it, and they would try to convince the public that my mind, at the time of writing the book, had become unhinged.” 

      On May 14, 1918, Saben told Hutchins Hapgood, a friend from his days in Germany, that he was actually in the midst of working on such a book. He said: “Germany did me a lot of good, a fact to which I am still bound to bear witness even in this terrible twilight hour of the ages. One of these days, if life and health are spared to me, you shall know all about it, for I am preparing the material for a book of confessions — ‘The Confessions of a Philosopher,’ I call it, using the word ‘philosopher’ in the original, or Socratic, sense. I believe that the book will be a big one, if I have all the courage requisite for my task.”

      Although Saben’s “book of confessions” never materialized — at least not under his legal name — it is remarkable to observe that he said he was “preparing the material for a book of confessions” in May 1918, the same time Jennie June and Dr. Alfred Herzog were preparing for the publication of The Autobiography of an Androgyne.[34]

      Saben’s Published Writings

      In his 1914 book The Spirit of Life, Saben favorably discussed topics such as sexual pleasure, same-sex attraction, and gender diversity. A review of the book in The Nation said: “These are the essays of a student of philosophy rather than of a newspaper man,” adding that Saben “may have his wish” to “shock a great many people.”

      Here is what Saben said in a chapter titled “Sex”: 

      *“I do not object to sex-worship in itself. I have stood at its altar; have myself been a worshipper, and am, in a measure, one even yet.”[35] 

      *“Wisely did Whitman speak, when he said that the men and women he knew and liked were those who knew and avowed the deliciousness of their sex. Why, indeed, should we not know and avow it? We are men—let us rejoice in our manhood! We are women—let us rejoice in our womanhood!”[36]

      *“The bodies of men and women have likenesses to each other, too. Not only do they possess the various organs which they share together, as human beings, but there is not so much difference in the distinctive organs of sex as a superficial appearance would indicate. The clitoris in women, for example, is really nothing more than an undeveloped penis, and the prostate gland in man is held by some physiological theorists to be but a rudimentary womb. Man has the rudiments of the female mammary glands, and in rare instances these have been quite fully developed. … And, when I observe how wide the range of variation between members of the same sex is, it becomes evident to me how a little excess at this point, or a little deficiency at that, may produce the homo-sexualist of both sexes, or the psycho-sexual hermaphrodite of both. Male and female are alike in difference, and there is hardly a greater difference between the members of one sex, as compared with the members of the other, than there is between the members of one sex when considered with reference to one another. There are women whose clitoris is abnormally large; there are men whose penis is abnormally small. There are men who are largely endowed with feminine traits; there are women who are largely endowed with masculine traits.  The tenderness of Gautama [Buddha] was feminine, and was not Jesus very much of a woman in some of his characteristics? Goethe said that there was something feminine in all genius, while Coleridge went further, declaring that the mind of a genius must be androgynous. Tennyson dared in The Princess to prophesy that the sexes were destined to become more and more alike.”[37]

      *“Just as a person eats, not for the purpose of nourishing his tissues, but because the appetite is keen, and the palate tickled, so the play of sexual organisms is carried on because it is a form of sense enjoyment and a physiological necessity. … It will not do for the man or woman who indulge from necessity their hetero-sexual tastes to throw stones at the man or woman who indulge from necessity their homo-sexual tastes. One might as well stone a painter because he is not a sculptor, or a sculptor because he is not a painter. … This point of view may not please the Philistines, and I daresay it will not, but it is time that we were done with Philistinism, and considered only facts and truths.”[38]

      Stances on Same-Sex Attraction & Gender Diversity

      Throughout Saben’s work, we see a viewpoint and style that parallel Jennie June’s. Both authors had interests in religion, spirituality, the Bible, art, and philosophy. Both expressed admiration for Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, and Oscar Wilde. Both read Latin, French, and German. And, significantly, both stayed current on the latest publications in the study of sexuality, referencing Havelock Ellis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and “other writers who have dealt with abnormal sexual psychology.” Though not unheard-of for doctors and other scientific researchers, it was rare and noteworthy in the first half of the 20th century for journalists like Saben to address sexuality so directly in public discourse.

      Like Jennie June, Saben described gender diversity in positive terms, suggesting that “androgynism” is more common among geniuses. In The Spirit of Life, Saben wrote: “The tenderness of Gautama [Buddha] was feminine, and was not Jesus very much of a woman in some of his characteristics? Goethe said that there was something feminine in all genius, while Coleridge went further, declaring that the mind of a genius must be androgynous.” 

      Jennie June expressed a similar idea about “androgynism” and genius in the November 1921 issue of Medical Review of Reviews, writing: “It is certain that genius supervenes upon inversion or androgynism far more often than upon full-fledged sexuality.” In The Female-Impersonators, page 34, he repeated that sentiment, writing: “Genius occurs far oftener in connection with androgynism than with full-fledged masculinity.” 

      Like Jennie June, Saben defended same-sex attraction, writing in The Spirit of Life, pages 161-2: “It will not do for the man or woman who indulge from necessity their hetero-sexual tastes to throw stones at the man or woman who indulge from necessity their homo-sexual tastes.” This progressive stance was extremely rare in 1914.

      Jennie June took the same stance in Androgyne, pages 22-3, noting: “Men call the invert’s instincts vice. The invert has just as much reason for calling the normal man’s instincts vice when they are not exercised solely in order to create a new human being. It is only a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In the eyes of the Supreme Being, with whom innate and unreasoning disgust is not a factor, the instincts of the normal man and of the invert are on a par morally and aesthetically.” 

      Saben’s Unpublished Letters

      In 1924, a decade after the publication of The Spirit of Life, Saben was still fascinated by the topic of “sexual inversion.” That year, Saben shared his opinions on “homosexuality” and “sexual inversion” in a series of five letters to Mitchell Kennerley — the publisher of The Spirit of Life and other books addressing same-sex love.[39]

      Throughout the letters, Saben repeatedly referenced authors known to have been sympathetic in their attitudes toward same-sex love and attraction, including: 

      In his trilogy, Jennie June mentioned all of these authors except Traubel (whom Saben knew from his work for The Conservator).

      Notably, on June 17, 1924, Saben argued: 

      “Walt Whitman was a genius, but he was no saint. Traubel used to picture him to me as the nineteenth century Christ, but I knew better. I had read Leaves of Grass. I told Traubel that Whitman was sexually inverted. He denied it. ‘The fact peeps out all over Leaves of Grass,’ I retorted. What I saw as sexual inversion, Horace Traubel saw, or tried to see, as cosmic consciousness. … I have been all my life not only a man of books, but a man of the world. I have known many sexual inverts, and of various types, both in America and in Europe, and Walt Whitman had all the hallmarks of the condition. I can put my finger on the very place where he reveals the kind of invert he was. You will find the revelation in Spontaneous Me.”

      It is also remarkable that in a letter to Kennerley dated July 14, 1924, Saben spoke in support of Oscar Wilde, writing: “I was in England during the trial of Oscar Wilde, and when everybody else was yelling for his crucifixion, I began to praise him everywhere I went.”

      Interestingly, Jennie June followed Kennerley’s work as well. On page 37 of The Female-Impersonators, he included Kennerley’s publication of The Portrait of Mr. W. H. by Oscar Wilde in a list of his sources. 

      Visual Proof: Comparing the Known Photographs of Saben & Jennie June

      Image 4 is the only known photo of Mowry Saben, taken in later life (date unknown). The picture was published in the San Francisco Examiner upon Saben’s death.[40]

      A visual inspection shows that the Examiner image compares positively to the younger photos of Jennie June printed in Androgyne. A full head of straight hair, an aquiline nose, and a heavyset build are apparent in both the Examiner photo and the earlier images. Jennie June testified that he was a “brunette” in early life,[41] which matches the description found on Saben’s 1894 passport application[42] and is suggested in Image 3, the photo of Jennie June at age 34.

      Visual Proof: Comparing the Riddle Manuscript to Saben’s Letters

      Saben’s typed letters are remarkable in their visual similarity to the Riddle of the Underworld manuscript. 

      They have double-spaced lines and tight margins, and they feature several notable idiosyncrasies: 

      • Saben consistently used proofreader’s marks to correct his typing mistakes. 
      • Saben almost always omitted spaces after commas. 
      • Saben sometimes omitted spaces before open parentheses. 

      These peculiarities are apparent in his letters to: Hutchins Hapgood, Denham Sutcliffe, Mitchell Kennerley, Oswald Garrison Villard, and George Burnham. (See: Typed Letters from Mowry Saben to Hutchins Hapgood, 1938-1944, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University; Letters from Mowry Saben to Denham Sutcliffe, 1947, Colby College Library ​​Special Collections; Letter from Mowry Saben to Oswald Garrison Villard, Box 63, Oswald Garrison Villard papers, Harvard University, Sept. 20, 1944.)

      The same idiosyncrasies are apparent throughout the Riddle manuscript. Consider these page-by-page comparisons.

      By contrast, they do not appear in the typed letters of Frank Crowninshield or George Casamajor — two other Jennie June suspects discussed earlier in this article. (I could find no typed letters by a third Jennie June suspect, Hamilton Easter Field.) 

      Frank Crowninshield’s letters to Gertrude Stein are single-spaced, with wide margins and an empty line between each paragraph. Crowninshield occasionally made small post-typing changes, but not as often as Saben. He used one space after each comma. (See: Letters from Frank Crowninshield to Gertrude Stein - April 15, 1918Feb. 13, 1919, May 12, 1919, etc., Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Box 103, Folder 2005, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. For a typographical change, see: Jan. 12, 1926.)

      George Casamajor’s 1917 letters to Theodore Dreiser are single-spaced with wide margins. They totally lack editing marks and feature one space after each comma. A 1905 letter to Hugo Münsterberg and a 1908 letter to Thomas E. Watson are similar except they are double-spaced. (See: Letters From George H. Casamajor to Theodore Dreiser - June 4June 5, Aug. 29, and Nov. 10, 1917, Theodore Dreiser Papers, ca. 1890-1965, Box 23, Folder 1263, Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image, University of Pennsylvania. See also: Letter from Casamajor to Hugo Münsterberg, Oct. 14, 1905, Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department, MS Acc. 1591-1630, Box 3; and Letter from George H. Casamajor to Thomas E. Watson, Feb. 14, 1908, Thomas E. Watson Papers #755, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, Collection 755, Folder 89, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)


      The analysis I have presented here is the first major breakthrough since scholars first began puzzling over Jennie June’s identity more than a century ago. By using publicly available government demographic data made available by Ancestry.com, information supplied by the author himself, and original archival research, I was able to generate a list of all U.S. residents named in the 1920 Census whose personal traits match what we know about Jennie June. I then carefully investigated each of those names to determine which one most strongly matched Jennie June — an approach that appears to be a novel one. By taking advantage of Ancestry’s ability to search across age and geographic ranges, I was able to circumvent the pseudonymous author’s effort to “slightly” alter his autobiographical details. 

      Based on this analysis, I have concluded that Jennie June — the mysterious author of The Autobiography of an AndrogyneThe Female-Impersonators, and The Riddle of the Underworld — was most likely the journalist Mowry Saben, a largely forgotten early advocate for the acceptance of same-sex attraction and gender diversity, and an important, newly discovered figure in LGBTQ+ history. 

      Significantly, the method I have described above can be adapted to provide researchers of U.S. queer history with a potentially powerful new tool for tracking down U.S. residents who, for various reasons, chose to hide their identities during repressive and dangerous periods.

      OutHistory urges community-based researchers, academy-based scholars, and the general public to send any comments or findings that may help to further elucidate the life of Jennie June. In the future, OutHistory will be publishing a bibliography and a chronology on Saben and his probable Jennie June identity, including suggestions for future research. If you care to help create these features, please email outhistory@gmail.com

      About the Researcher

      Channing Gerard Joseph (he/him or she/her) is an OutHistory Associate Director. He is the winner of a 2021 Berlin Prize and a 2019 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant for his research and writing on Black queer U.S. history. He has been a staff editor and writer at The New York Times, Associated Press, and elsewhere. A leading expert on the history of race and sexuality, Joseph is the discoverer of William Dorsey Swann, the world’s first self-described drag queen, and he regularly appears in international media outlets such as the BBC, the CBC, Deutsche Welle, and others. He is the author of the forthcoming House of Swann: Where Slaves Became Queens — and Changed the World. He teaches journalism at Princeton University and at the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.


      Epigraph: Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945), page 549.

      [0] Although the title page is marked 1918, Androgyne was not released until 1919. The copyright date is Jan. 26, 1919. (See: Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part I: Books, Group 1, New Series, Vol. 16 (1919), page 497.) The first advertisement for the book appears in the January-February 1919 issue of Medico-Legal Journaland the first page of the Riddle of the Underworld manuscript states: “The first of the trilogy, the AUTOBIOGRAPHY, was published in January, 1919.”

      For more information on Jennie June’s association with Robert W. Shufeldt, see: “The Medico-Legal Consideration of Perverts and Inverts,” Pacific Medical Journal (July 1905), pages 385-93. 

      Note: Shufeldt makes clear that Jennie June sought help from him to publish an early memoir circa 1905, misrepresenting the manuscript as the biography of a close friend — one who had committed suicide — rather than as an autobiography.

      Some time later, Shufeldt discovered Jennie June’s deception. We know this because the U.S. Army doctor took two nude clinical photographs of Jennie June that eventually appeared in The Female-Impersonators in 1922 (on pages 82 and 89). According to Shufeldt, Jennie June had initially come to him to seek professional advice on how to publish a manuscript that might be of interest to sexologists. But the existence of the two photographs makes clear that Shufeldt later came to see Jennie June in an entirely different light: as a medical research subject — one that he deemed worthy of careful scientific study, documentation, and analysis. This is consistent with Jennie June’s own statement, in The Female-Impersonators, page 94, that “the names ‘Ralph Werther’ and ‘Jennie June’ [became] known to some army heads” in 1905.

      [1] Androgyne, page xiii.

      [2] Female-Impersonators, pages 45-6, 53-4, 65, 71, etc.; Androgyne, page 1.

      [3] Female-Impersonators, pages 82 and 95.

      [4] Female-Impersonators, page 97.

      [5] Androgyne, page x of the introduction.

      [6] Androgyne, page 22. 

      [7] See: Various photographs in Androgyne and Female-Impersonators; see also: Female-Impersonators, page 52, in which the author discusses his family background, saying: “I am of English, Scotch, Dutch, German, and French descent.”

      [8] For information on Jennie June’s early publishing efforts, see: “The Medico-Legal Consideration of Perverts and Inverts,” by R.W. Shufeldt, Pacific Medical Journal (July 1905), pages 385-93.

      Note: It is clear from Robert W. Shufeldt’s 1905 article in Pacific Medical Journal that Jennie June misrepresented the manuscript as the biography of a close friend — one who had committed suicide — rather than his own autobiography

      Shufeldt discovered Jennie June’s deception some time later. We know this because the U.S. Army doctor took two nude clinical photographs of Jennie June that eventually appeared in The Female-Impersonators in 1922 (on pages 82 and 89). According to Shufeldt, Jennie June had initially come to him to seek professional advice on how to publish a manuscript that might be of interest to sexologists. But the existence of the two photographs makes clear that Shufeldt later came to see Jennie June in an entirely different light: as a medical research subject — one that he deemed worthy of careful scientific study, documentation, and analysis. This is consistent with Jennie June’s own statement, in The Female-Impersonators, page 94, that “the names ‘Ralph Werther’ and ‘Jennie June’ [became] known to some army heads” in 1905.

      Despite its 1919 copyright, we know that The Autobiography of an Androgyne was being prepared for publication in 1918 because Herzog’s introduction and the title page are both dated 1918. See: Androgyne, title page and xiii. Within the text of the book, the author also repeatedly states that he is writing in the year 1918; see: pages 3, 16, 86, 104, 115, etc. For information on when The Female-Impersonators was being prepared for publication, see: Female-Impersonators, page 251, and Medical Review of Reviews. v. 27. (November 1921), page 539.

      [9] For Herzog’s address, see: Alfred W. Herzog in the 1920 U.S. census; see also: the title and copyright pages of Androgyne and Female-Impersonators. Androgyne was copyrighted Jan. 26, 1919. See: Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part I: Books, Group 1, New Series, Vol. 16 (1919), page 497. Female-Impersonators was copyrighted Oct. 27, 1922. See: Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part I: Books, Group 1, New Series, Vol. 19 for the Year 1922 (1923), page 952.

      [10] Androgyne, page x.

      [11] Jennie June is listed as “Ralph Werther, New York,” page not numbered, in the “Index of Articles” for Medical Review of Reviews, v. 27 (1921). He had written a letter (“A Fairie’s Reply to Dr. Lichtenstein,” Medical Review of Reviews, November 1921, pages 539-42) in response to an article by Perry Lichtenstein, a city prison doctor (“The ‘Fairy’ and the Lady Lover,” Medical Review of Reviews, August 1921, pages 369-74). For other indications that Jennie June lived in New York City, see: Female-Impersonators, pages 16, 36, 42, and 103-221.

      Note: Although Jennie June frequently quoted from articles published in New York newspapers, he often omitted titles, dates, author names, and headlines, and the remaining text he provided was “much condensed, and slightly edited for diction.” These omissions and changes make finding the original sources difficult. In at least one case, however, he gave both the title of the newspaper and the headline of the article. In The Female-Impersonators, page 16, Jennie June wrote: “I just came across a scrap of a recent NEW YORK WORLD Sunday magazine, containing ‘Glands That Govern Our Lives’, name of author missing. I quote: ‘The not uncommon phenomena of the smooth-faced man with a feminine voice and a figure resembling that of a woman, and of the deep-voiced, hairy-faced masculine woman, are produced by abnormalities in the development of these glands.’” Reprints of that article appeared in The Arkansas Gazette and in The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Nov. 6, 1921.

      [12] Androgyne, pages 235-40; The Riddle of the Underworld, page 10 of the section titled “The Boy Is Father to the Man.”

      [13] Androgyne, pages 87, 89, 236-42; Female-Impersonators, pages 187, 189, 257-8.

      [14] Androgyne, page xiii and pages 235-40.

      [15] Female-Impersonators, pages 253 and 35.

      [16] Androgyne, page xii; Female-Impersonators, page xi.

      [17] Female-Impersonators, page 92, and handwritten in the left margin of The Riddle of the Underworld, on page 12 of the section “Voyeurism.” For Jennie June’s publishing contract, see the last six pages of Riddle

      [18] Play Production in America, v. 10, by Arthur Edwin Krows, page 253.

      [19] For address information, see: Mowry Saben in 1920 U.S. Census; for Saben’s mentions of a book of confessions,” see: Letter to Hutchins Hapgood, May 14, 1918, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University; and Letter to Mitchell Kennerley, July 2, 1924, Mitchell Kennerley Papers, New York Public Library. For Jennie June’s rejection by his father, see: Androgyne, pages 114 and 140. For Jennie June’s expulsion, see: Androgyne, page 139. For Saben’s expulsion, see: Letters from Edwin Arlington Robinson to Harry de Forest Smith, Feb. 21, 1892, March 1, 1892, March 13, 1892, and Oct. 22, 1893, The Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Digital Edition at Digital Commons, Colby College. For Saben’s disinheritance, see: Letter to Mitchell Kennerley, July 14, 1924, Mitchell Kennerley Papers, New York Public Library.)

      [20] For family information, see: Mowry Saben in 1880 U.S. Census; “Mrs. Jennie M. Burnap [Obituary, sister of Mowry Saben],” Springfield (Mass.) Union, Jan. 8, 1971; “William M. Saben [Obituary, brother of Mowry Saben],” San Diego Union, March 30, 1948; for Saben’s remarks on his “Puritan” origins and his disinheritance, see: Letter to Mitchell Kennerley, July 14, 1924, Mitchell Kennerley Papers, New York Public Library; for Jennie June’s comments on being “of puritan stock” and being raised in a Protestant home, see: Female-Impersonators, pages 45-56 and elsewhere; for Jennie June’s remarks on his father’s rejection, see pages 114 and 140; for Jennie June’s comments on attending prep school, see: Female-Impersonators, page 82, and Riddle, page 10 of “The Boy Is Father to the Man”; for sources confirming Saben’s attendance of Exeter Academy, see: Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945) and General catalogue of the officers and students of the Phillips Exeter academy, 1783-1903 (1903).

      *Some speculation on the possible origin of the pseudonyms: Jennie June claimed he had “built a pseudonym” based on his “baptismal name.” He did not say whether that pseudonym was Earl Lind, Raphael Werther, Ralph Werther, or Jennie June. Saben’s “baptismal name” was Israel Mowry Saben. It is intriguing that the name “Israel” and the phrase “is Earl” are anagrams. Taking them together produces the sentence “Israel is Earl.” Also, Raphael, an uncommon first name even in the 1870s, ends with the same three letters as Israel, another uncommon first name. As mentioned elsewhere, Saben’s only sister was Jennie May, and “Jennie June” is an obvious variation, as June is the month immediately following May.

      The author of Androgyne discussed pseudonyms on page 20 of the book, writing: “While reading ‘Escal Vigor’ many years ago, your author was convinced that the book was primarily written by Oscar Wilde and based on his own life experience. This suspicion is confirmed by the name of the book, the two words having the same length as those of the name of the individual; the second and third letters of the first name being the same in both, as well as the second letter of the surname while the initial V is the French equivalent of the English W, the novel having been first published in French. I have myself built a pseudonym on my baptismal name in similar fashion.”

      “Jennie June,” of course, was also the pen-name of the journalist Jane Cunningham Croly. The Androgyne author claimed this was a coincidence, writing on page 26: “The author may be accused of copying the pen-name of Mrs. Croly in the name that he gave himself when undertaking the role of a girl. But I was not conscious of the existence of this pen-name until after I had selected ‘Jennie June.’ In early childhood I had called myself ‘Jennie,’ always my favorite girl’s name. It has always seemed to me the most feminine of names. I adopted the name ‘June’ because of the alliteration, the beauty of the word, and its agreeable associations.”

      Later, on pages 93-4 of The Female-Impersonators, he wrote: “As for the genesis of my first feminine name, I chose ‘Jennie’ at four. I have always considered it the most feminine of names. When I began my double life, I appended ‘June.’ ... I later adopted ‘Earl’ primarily because it rhymes with ‘girl,’ the creature of enchantment that I longed to be, and secondarily because it arouses noble ideas. I adopted ‘Lind’ after [the Swedish opera singer] Jennie Lind, one of my models.”

      [21] Harvard University Directory (1913), see Abbreviations and page 701.

      [22] By the hair,” The Times Literary Supplement, London, England, March 23, 2007.

      [23] Mowry Saben about Edwin Arlington Robinson,” Colby Library Quarterly, March 1972; A Poet’s Life, by Scott Donaldson, page 445; Untriangulated Stars: Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson to Harry de Forest Smith, 1890–1905, edited by Denham Sutcliffe, pages 258-9.

      [24] Androgyne, page 139; “Studies in Androgynism,” Medical Life, December 1920; Female-Impersonators, page 118; Letters from Edwin Arlington Robinson to Harry de Forest Smith, Feb. 21, 1892, March 1, 1892, March 13, 1892, and Oct. 22, 1893, The Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Digital Edition at Digital Commons, Colby College; Fifth Report, Harvard College, Class of 1895, 1915, page 282; Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945); “Mowry Saben,” The Argonaut, Oct. 13, 1950.

      [25] Mr. Saben’s Lecture,” Camden Post-Telegram, Sept. 25, 1900; Advertisement for Saben’s Walt Whitman Lecture, Camden Post-Telegram, Sept. 26, 1900; “Will Discuss Book by Havelock Ellis,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1937; “Labor Leaders Are Annoyed,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 3, 1901. 

      [26] Fifth Report, Harvard College, Class of 1895 (1915), page 282; “Mr. Saben Talks on Browning,” Boston Herald, May 19, 1903; “City and Suburbs,” Boston Herald, May 12, 1903; Mr. Saben’s Lecture,” Camden Post-Telegram, Sept. 25, 1900; The Twilight of the Gods: An Essay (1903); Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945), page 549.

      [27] The Conservator, v. 11, Dec. 1900, page 155; The Conservator, v. 12, July 1901, page 80; Who’s Who in America, v. 9. (1916-1917), page 2136; Who’s Who in America, v. 10. (1918-1919), page 2358; Fifth Report, Harvard College, Class of 1895 (1915), pages 282-3; Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945), page 549; “Socialism and Freedom of the Press,” Mowry Saben, National Republican, Feb. 11, 1922; Neale’s Monthly, v. 2 (July-December 1913) and Neale’s Monthly, v. 3 (January-June 1914); and The Forum, v. 48 (1912); for “one of the most vigorous essayists,” see: Neale’s Monthly, v. 2 (July 1913).

      Note: A point worth investigating further is Saben’s association with Horace Traubel. When Saben worked on the staff of The Conservator, Traubel was the editor-in-chief. Traubel, a well-known champion of the works of Walt Whitman, was also associated with the free love movement, and he maintained a legally recognized marriage with a woman named Anne while also engaging in sexual affairs with men and women. (See: Walt Whitman in Canada: The Sexual Trinity of Horace Traubel and Frank and Mildred Bain” in Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 2012, Vol. 30, No. 1, by Marylin J. McKay.) Both Traubels legal marriage and his affair with Mildred Bain produced children. 

      In The Riddle of the Underworld, page 6 of the section titled “Voyeurism,” Jennie June wrote that he once worked on the staff of a large publication whose editor-in-chief was “naturally polygamous,” adding: “He was type of man who maintains two separate families in different parts of the New York metropolitan district.” 

      Jennie June went on to describe his editor as “unconscientious, and guilty of the meanest tricks, behind their backs, on people he disliked.”

      Saben described Traubel in a similar fashion in a letter to Mitchell Kennerley, dated July 2, 1924, writing: “I always had a kindly feeling for Traubel, personally, though, like many others who had dealings with him, I had some reason for holding a degree of resentment at things he did. He was a terrible gossip, as I have written, and dragged the secrets of all whom he knew, always barring Whitman, into the light.”

      Jennie Junes unnamed co-worker clearly resembles Sabens Traubel, and the universe of people who would fit Jennie Junes description is undoubtedly a small one: White men who were editors-in-chief of large publications near the turn of the 20th century; who resided near (but not necessarily in) “the New York metropolitan district”; who were gossips; and who practiced polygamy.

      [28] The Riddle of the Underworld, page 6 of “How I Came to Write This Book;” Female-Impersonators, page 253; Riddle, page 15 of the section titled “Sexual Intermediates in General.”

      [29] House Documents, v. 94, Annual Report of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, 1919, pages 84, 87; House Documents, Miscellaneous, v. 1, 1928Document No. 120 - Relating to Officers and Employees and Services of the House of Representatives, page 11. For Saben’s location in 1920, see: Mowry Saben in 1920 U.S. Census. For his work as a “clerk,” see: Emergency Immigration Legislation, Hearings Before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, House of Representatives, Sixty-Seventh Congress, First Session, Serial 2 ... April and 26, 1921Annual Report of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, 1921, pages 199210, and 221Annual Report of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, 1922, pages 100, 111, 121, 132, 143, and 154; Official Register of the United States, 1921, page 1063; Letters to Hutchins Hapgood, Nov. 23, 1938, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University. For information on his anti-socialist polemics, see: “Socialism and Sentimentalism,” Garden City Telegram (Kansas), Sept. 8, 1921; “H.G. Wells’ Writings and Parlor Socialism,” National Republican via Escanaba Morning Press (Michigan), Dec. 18, 1921; “Socialism and the Times Called Hard,” National Republican via Atkinson Graphic (Nebraska), Dec. 30, 1921; “Socialism and Freedom of the Press,” National Republican, Feb. 11, 1922. For evidence of the delay in publishing The Female-Impersonators, see: Female-Impersonators, page 251; Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part I: Books, Group 1, New Series, Vol. 19 for the Year 1922 (1923), page 952.

      [30] For Saben’s sojourn to Montreal, see Letter to Hutchins Hapgood, Nov. 23, 1938, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University. For his letters from Montreal, see: Mitchell Kennerley Papers, New York Public Library. For the fistula and hemorrhoid treatment, see: Letters to Hutchins Hapgood, May 14, 1918, and Nov. 23, 1938, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University. For Saben’s work with James J. Davis, see: “Mowry Saben Dies; Once Cabinet Aide,” New York Times, Oct. 8, 1950; Mowry Saben, Official Personnel File, National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri, which contains: Memorandum for the Chief Clerk, by H.L. Kerwin, Director of Conciliation, Department of Labor, April 16, 1926. For Commissioner of Conciliation’s responsibilities, see: John R. Steelman, “The Work of the United States Conciliation Service in Wartime Labor Disputes,” Law and Contemporary Problems, Summer 1942, pages 462-9. For Saben’s actual duties as commissioner, see: Letter to Hutchins Hapgood, Nov. 23, 1938, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University; and Harvard Class of 1895, Fiftieth Anniversary Report (1945), pages 548-9. For his last day as commissioner, see: Memorandum Showing Last Day Served by Temporary Employee, Mowry Saben, Commissioner of Conciliation, Department of Labor, Sept. 6, 1929. Also see: Saben, Mowry, Civil Service Commission index card, National Archives at St. Louis. For his addresses in Washington, D.C., see: Boyd’s District of Columbia Directory1927 and 1929; and Mowry Saben in 1930 U.S. Census. For his work as “the ghost for a senator,” see: Letter to Hutchins Hapgood, Nov. 23, 1938, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University.

      [31] “Mowry Saben,” The Argonaut, Oct. 13, 1950. 

      [32] “Mowry Saben Dies; Once Cabinet Aide,” New York Times, Oct. 8, 1950; Manuel boyFrank Papers, Box 6, Folder 16, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, University of Southern California.

      [33] “Mowry Saben,” The Argonaut, Oct. 13, 1950; “Wrong Blood Death Probed,” San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 19, 1950; “Death Ruled Not Due to Blood Transfusion,” San Bernardino Daily Sun, Oct. 26, 1950.

      [34] Ernst Bacon Papers, Saben Correspondence, M0943_B1_f69, Stanford University. The date on Schwab’s letter has been torn away, but the note appears to have been sent between 1973, a date mentioned within the text of the letter, and 1980, the year that Schwab retired, according to the university.

      For Saben’s remarks to Hapgood and Kennerley, see: Letter to Hutchins Hapgood, May 14, 1918, Hapgood Family Papers, Yale University, and Letter to Mitchell Kennerley, July 2, 1924, Mitchell Kennerley Papers, New York Public Library.

      Jennie June’s preface to Androgyne is dated April 1918; Herzog’s introduction is dated October 1918; see: Androgyne, pages xiii and 3. Although Androgyne’s title page contains the year 1918, the book’s copyright date was Jan. 26, 1919, and the first advertisement for it appeared in the January-February 1919 issue of Medico-Legal Journal. See: Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part I: Books, Group 1, New Series, Vol. 16 (1919), page 497.

      [35] The Nation, Dec. 3, 1914, page 662; Spirit of Life, page 138.

      [36] Spirit of Life, page 143.

      [37] Spirit of Life, pages 149-50.

      Note: In November 1921, in Medical Review of Reviews, page 541, Jennie June expressed a similar idea about “androgynism” and genius, writing: “It is certain that genius supervenes upon inversion or androgynism far more often than upon full-fledged sexuality. I could name some of the greatest historic characters who were androgynes, but have not the space here to present the evidence.” In The Female-Impersonators, page 34, he repeated the sentiment: “Genius occurs far oftener in connection with androgynism than with full-fledged masculinity.” 

      In the above quotations, as throughout the trilogy, Jennie June makes no distinction between sexuality and gender identity. 

      In The Riddle of the Underworld, for example, on page 13 of the section titled “The Boy Is Father to the Man,” he wrote: “I believe that the fairly common homosexuality in boarding-schools attended by high-strung boys is without permanent effect on the sexuality of those indulging. … At the most, the boarding-school adventures throw over into inversion [i.e., same-sex attraction] adolescents whom Nature placed on the very border-line between girl-boys and the weakly virile. Because no two adult males possess the identic degree of virility [i.e., masculinity], all being theoretically arrangeable along a scale from the most tremendously virile at one pole to the ultra-androgyne at the other, the virility of the latter individual being a negative quantity.” 

      [38] Spirit of Life, pages 160-1.

      [39] For Saben’s comments on sexologists, see: Broken Lights, Chapter II,” Neale’s Monthly, v. 2, No. 4 (October 1913), page 426. For Saben’s letters to Mitchell Kennerley, see: Box 7 of the Mitchell Kennerley Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library.

      [40] San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 8, 1950.

      [41] Androgyne, page 13.

      [42] I. Mowry Saben, U.S. Passport Applications, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #421 [16 May 1894-24 May 1894]. (Available via Ancestry.com.)

      SEE ALSO:

      OutHistory Features on Jennie June-Ralph Werter-Earl Lind

      Who Was Jennie June?

      Who Was Jennie June?, by Channing Gerard Joseph

      Who was Jennie June?, by Clair Kronk

      Notes on Jennie June-Earl Lind-Ralph Werther, by Randall Sell

      Hawken Research, by by Randall Sell


      Transgender Memoir of 1921 Found: The Riddle of the Underworld

      Earl Lind (Ralph Werther-Jennie June): The Riddle of the Underworld, 1921

      Riddle of the Underworld: The Manuscript

      Contract Between Dr. Victor Robinson and Ralph Werther

      Randall Sell: Encountering Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, Jennie June

      Jennie June/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind: The "Cercle Hermaphroditos"

      Bibliography and Chronology

      Jennie June/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind: Alphabetical List

      Jennie June/Ralph Werther/Earl Lind: Chronological List