Monday, April 14, 2008

That's a Long Time to Be a Woman

Kathryn Larcher spotted this in the World Wide Words newsletter of March 8th:

On visiting the Daily Telegraph Web site Ian Harrison encountered this sentence in a report dated 5 March: "Historians have been kept guessing over claims Dr James Barry, Inspector General of Military Hospitals, was in fact a woman for more than 140 years." I can see the slogan already, "Transvestism: keeps you living longer".
Getting past the hard-to-parse lede, this is actually a pretty interesting article. Evidence suggests that James Barry was in fact Margaret Ann Bulkley.
Key evidence came from around two dozen letters, some written by Margaret as a teenager and others by Barry the student doctor.

Alison Reboul, a document analysis expert with the Forensic Science Service, has concluded they were written by the same person. Another newly-discovered letter was written by Barry to the family solicitor Daniel Reardon on "his" arrival in Edinburgh to study medicine in 1809.

Although the letter was signed 'James Barry', Reardon had written on the outside 'Miss Bulkley, 14th December’. "Reardon was a meticulous man," said du Preez.

"On the outside of all the letters he received he wrote the date and the name of the sender. You can't get much more conclusive than that."

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