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Anderson, Lucy Hicks [Tobias Lawson] (1886-1954)

Image Ownership: Public Domain


Lucy Hicks Anderson lived as a woman in Oxnard, California, from 1920 until 1945, when it was discovered that she was biologically male. Today she might be described as a transgender person, but that term did not exist during her lifetime. Although she did not refer to herself as a transgendered person, she insisted publicly that a person could appear to be of one sex but actually belong to the other.

Tobias Lawson was born in Waddy, Kentucky. When Lawson entered school she insisted on wearing dresses and began calling herself Lucy. Her mother took her to a physician, and the doctor advised her mother to rear Lucy as a girl. Lucy left school at the age of fifteen to work as a domestic. When she was in her twenties, she moved west, settling in Pecos, Texas, where she worked in a hotel for a decade. In 1920 Lucy married Clarence Hicks in Silver City, New Mexico, and then moved to California. In Oxnard she continued to work as a domestic, but she also saved her money, purchased property near the center of town, and operated a brothel. Lucy divorced Hicks in 1929. In 1944 she married Reuben Anderson, a soldier stationed at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.

When it was discovered that Lucy was biologically male, the Ventura County district attorney decided to try her for perjury. According to the district attorney, she had committed perjury when she signed the application for a marriage license, swearing that there were “no legal objections to the marriage.” Lucy challenged the authority of physicians who insisted that she was male. “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” Anderson told reporters in the midst of her perjury trial. “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” A jury convicted her, but the judge placed her on probation for ten years rather than send her to prison.

Lucy had received allotment checks as the wife of a member of the U.S. Army. The Federal government prosecuted both Reuben Anderson and Lucy Hicks Anderson for fraud in 1946. Both were found guilty and sentenced to prison. After her release from prison, Anderson tried to return to Oxnard, but the local police chief told her to leave town or risk prosecution. She lived the remainder of her life in Los Angeles.


Frank P. Barajas, “Work and Leisure in La Colonia: Class, Generation, and Interethnic Alliances among Mexicanos in Oxnard, California, 189-1945,” Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate University, 2001. 


Western Washington University

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