The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
278 pages (hardcover)
At a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women, Lucy Lobdell boldly set forth to earn men’s wages. Lucy Lobdell did all of these things in a personal quest to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. In this riveting historical novel, William Klaber captures the life of a brave woman who saw well beyond her era.
The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is the fictionalized account of Lucy’s foray into the world of men and her inward journey to a new sexual identity. It is her promised memoir as heard and recorded a century later by William Klaber, an upstream neighbor. Meticulously researched and told with compassion and respect, this is historical fiction at its best.
Note: “A slightly different version of this title was first published in the United States by Greenleaf Book Group Press in 2013.”
— Description from Barnes & Noble*
Please be aware: There may be spoilers below, though I have tried not to reveal too much. Also, I refer to the main character as Lucy Ann and use feminine pronouns for no other reason than convenience.
Lucy Ann Lobdell lived in a time when a woman’s place was behind her husband, and if she were a spinster, much scorn was brought upon her. Lucy Ann lived much of her young life as a woman: she married and had a daughter. When her husband deserts her, and work is scarce, she is compelled to find a way to provide for her daughter. After cutting her hair and donning her brother’s clothes, she heads away from her family to find a new life using her grandfather’s moniker, Joseph Lobdell. Unfortunately, bad times befall Lucy.
The Rebellion of Lucy Ann Lobdell is an important work. Not only because it is the fictionalized account of a woman who dared to live life her in a way that might have been lost to history, but because her struggles are still relevant today. This story came to be because Lucy’s secret did not–could not–stay a secret. The truth was discovered almost every time she headed to a new locale. Oftentimes she was met with violence for her “deception.”
It seemed as time went on, things only got worse for Lucy Ann. When she eventually returned to society, most seemed to accept that she was different and let her be. However, some were offended by her, claiming her behavior went against God and Nature.
I’m glad this story has been told. Lucy Ann faced many ordeals throughout her life. Society would like to think things are different now. Women are treated better. Individuals who feel different are free to live their life. Except they really aren’t.
Consider this title for your book club. It’ll open the door to many themes that face the world today, such as the continued inequality of women in the workplace and blaming victims.