She probably never would have seen the story except that Gertrude had insisted on reading New York newspapers ever since she’d come home from the holidays there and she had left an old one behind in Eden’s room.
The New York Times
January 19, 1901
MURRAY HALL FOOLED MANY SHREWD MEN
Murray H. Hall, the woman who masqueraded as a man for more than a quarter of a century… was known to hundreds of people in the Thirteenth Senatorial District, where she figured quite prominently as a politician.
She registered and voted at primaries and general elections for many years, and exercised considerable political influence with Tammany Hall, often securing appointments for friends who have proved their fealty to the organization-never exciting the remotest suspicion as to her real sex.
The discovery of “Murray Hall’s” true sex was not made until she was cold in death. She had been suffering from a cancer in the left breast for several years, as Dr. William C. Gallagher, who attended her in her final illness, discovered; but she abjured medical advice for fear of disclosing her sex, and treated herself.
“I wouldn’t believe it if Dr. Gallagher, whom I know to be a man of undoubted veracity, hadn’t said so,” said Senator Bernard F. Martin. “…Why, I knew him well. He was a hard worker for his party, and always had a good argument to put up for any candidate he favored. Suspect he was a woman? Never. He dressed like a man and talked like a very sensible one.”
Minnie Hall, an adopted child, is the sole heir. She is twenty-two years old, and Lawyer Thomas Moran, who drew the will, says she is the only beneficiary named.
Eden frowned and wondered if Gertrude had left the paper with this particular story in Eden’s room by design. Then she carefully tore the story out from the page on which it appeared, folded it and took out her writing paper and a pen.
I hope this letter finds you well. I have nothing much to tell you since I last wrote. But I thought this article from the New York paper might interest you. Please read it in private.
For as long as Eden could remember, she had known that her father was a woman. She had likewise known that no one else—not even her twin sister, Minna—knew. Her mother was the exception of course. But even as a child Eden knew she must not speak of it, not to Lillian, and certainly not to Joe.
This silent prohibition left her ironically lonely as she began to grow into herself under the gaze of her family and the others on the ranch. Eden eschewed the dresses her Aunt Susan made for her, insisting on Susan’s son’s handed down knee pants and shirts instead, from the age of six. She grew up with an eye, not to the sons of the neighboring ranches, but to their daughters who grew up in the desert like cactus blossoms, strong and sweet.
At twelve, she’d left her mother’s side before dawn and followed her father to the stables. “I want to work with you,” was all she’d had to say, and from that day, she was trained with the boys of the ranch to care for the herd, mend the fences, dig the wells and raise the outbuildings of the Double S.
In her free moments after dark, she would light the lamp by her mother’s porch rocker and read anything she was able to find or order, and dream of traveling to all the places she learned about in books and magazines.
She had been eighteen when she had finally told her mother “I am like papa.” But she had spoken nothing of it with her parents since then. Silence was almost the very substance of her father’s identity—or at the very least, of his safety.
But the way Eleanor was teaching her to live was so different. Eleanor might be “Mr. Eliot Stephens” in certain public places and she might be teaching Eden to answer to “Ethan” in the smoking lounge of the Brunswick Hotel, but Eleanor was Eleanor at home, and to everyone who really knew her. Her adventures as “Eliot” amounted to little more than after dinner banter at her parties.
Eden loved her home. For her, no place had ever felt as safe. And yet, the risk she took as “Ethan” abroad in Boston with “Eliot” delighted her more than anything had since she’d been given her first horse at age ten. The freedom of it, the daring of it—these she had exchanged for the silence of her family without regret.