As a 19th-century black sex worker, Ms. Mary Jones was one of the earliest known American transwomen. On June 11, 1836, Jones was brought to court for theft after allegedly pickpocketing $99 from a white john she’d had sex with the night prior. During her interrogation, it was discovered she had assigned-male anatomy, and used a homemade leather device to simulate a vagina so her johns wouldn’t be the wiser. Further, police found dozens of stolen johns’ wallets–all white upper class men–in her home, though they were never reported stolen due to the johns’ fears of the backlash from the conservative society for comizerating with a black trans prostitute. Through it all, Jones continued dressing in elegant women’s clothes, ignoring the daily jeers and harassment. Ultimately in the following year, Jones was sentenced to five years in prison. Her sentence was crudely sensationalized through an illustration of her, dubbing her “The Man-Monster.” After she was released, she was again arrested, this time for simply dressing in women’s clothing. She served five months in Sing-Sing prison, after which time she disappeared from history.
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