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

Lucy Hicks stands with two deputy sheriffs in front of an automobile. Left to right: Deputy Sheriff (in uniform with hat) H.E. Bowman, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Deputy Sheriff Charles Salig. Lucy Hicks wears a skirt suit with a coat draped over her shoulders and a hat, and Charles Salig wears a suit, tie, and hat. Three pieces of luggage lay at their feet.
Lucy Hicks with deputy sheriffs H.E. Bowman and Charles Salig, Ventura County, California, ca. 1945
Courtesy Museum of Ventura County (31155, 34147)

Lucy Hicks Anderson, American socialite and chef, lived the first 59 years of her life as a woman until 1945, when it was discovered that she was biologically male. Today she would be described as a transgender person, but that term did not exist during her lifetime. Throughout her life she insisted publicly that a person could appear to be of one sex but actually belong to the other.

Lucy Hicks Anderson was born Tobias Lawson in Waddy, Kentucky sometime in 1886. When Lawson entered public 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. She did and Lucy wore girl’s clothing through her childhood before leaving school at the age of fifteen to work as a domestic. When she was in her twenties, Lucy 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 Oxnard, California. In Oxnard she continued to work as a domestic, but she also saved her money, purchased property near the center of town where she operated a brothel and sold illegal liquor during Prohibition.  During that time she also emerged as a socialite and hostess in the city, known among the elite as an excellent baker and chef.  When she was arrested for owning a brothel, she was bailed out of jail by the town’s leading banker.

Lucy Hicks Anderson

Lucy divorced Clarence Hicks in 1929 and lived as a single woman until 1944 when she married Reuben Anderson, a soldier stationed at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.  The couple returned to Oxnard and Lucy Anderson continued to operate her brothel.  In 1945 Anderson was arrested along with all the women in the brothel when a sailor claimed he contracted a venereal disease from one of the women.  When it was discovered that Anderson was biologically male, the Ventura County district attorney in 1945 decided to try her for perjury. According to the district attorney, she had committed perjury when she signed the application for a marriage license, insisting that she was a woman.

Anderson 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.” Nonetheless, a jury convicted her and her marriage was declared invalid since only a man and woman could legally marry. The judge however declined to send her to prison.

In 1946 Federal authorities charged Lucy and Reuben Anderson with fraud for receiving financial allotments intended for wives of soldiers.  They were convicted and both were sentenced to serve ten years in a men’s prison. There Lucy Anderson was forbidden to wear women’s clothes.  After her release from prison in 1950, Anderson tried to return to Oxnard, but the local police chief told her to leave town or risk prosecution. She and Reuben, now also out of prison, moved to Los Angeles.  Lucy Hicks Anderson died in 1954 in Los Angeles at the age of 68.