Murray Hall: The politician who broke 19th Century gender rules

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He was a hard-drinking, twice-married businessman and politician in 19th Century New York – but Murray Hall had a secret which was only revealed after his death.

Murray Hall had a reputation for hard living – drinking, smoking, playing poker and even brawling with a policeman. He also had an active political career and a business as a bail bondsman.

So far, so ordinary for a man at the time. But one aspect of his life remained a secret until he died from cancer in 1901. That was when it first emerged that Hall had been assigned female at birth.

It was later reported that he had been born in Govan as Mary Anderson. According to a source quoted by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, he began dressing as a male in his teens, then fled to America when his first wife disclosed his gender to the police. It was there that he took the name Murray H Hall, before marrying for a second time and beginning his business and political career.

Writer and archivist Mel Reeve said there had been a “huge backlash” in the media after his death. “People were very angry and felt like they’d been betrayed, but obviously he was just living his life how he wanted to – which was as a man,” she said.

Newspapers reported breathlessly on the events in articles which reflected some of the attitudes of the times. The New York Times, for instance, accused him of “masquerading” in male attire. It said Hall had a reputation as “a ‘man about town’, a bon vivant, and all-around ‘good fellow’.”

One senator described how Hall used to “hobnob with the big guns of the County Democracy” and said that he “cut quite some figure as a politician”. He added: “He dressed like a man and talked like a very sensible one.”

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Comments 1

  1. OH ! OH my atheist god ! Murray Hall is the name of one of a them we know OH ! so little about. Such as they are not new but are RARE. Such this now famous person is ten times ten % more a human than this one coward who writes here.
    W. O. W. !.!.!
    Such goes under {yes, under) Madalyn Murray O’Hair hero.

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