Queer Marriage in the 1920s

Note: this post contains mild spoilers for a scene in my book My Baby Chased Away the Blues

It’s true that legal gay marriage, in which both parties are recognized as male, is a recent thing. But that doesn’t mean that queer people did not get married in the past–and often, public perceptions of those marriages were much more complicated than one might assume. In one scene in my book, Ev shares two newspaper articles with Del that discuss marriages between same-sex couples. I based this scene on actual articles and wanted to discuss one of them further here because it’s absolutely fascinating.

The article is dated October 4, 1923, and it appeared in the New York Times. It discusses a murder case in Chicago, where a Fred G. Thompson was on trial for shooting a man named Richard Tesmer in a holdup. During the trial, it came out that Thompson also lived as a woman, Frances, and had been married to a Frank Carrick for the past fourteen years. Shortly after Thompson’s marriage to Carrick, Thompson (as a man) had married a woman named Marie Clark, but did not live with her.

Unfortunately, the article does not go into anymore detail about the relationship between these three people. However, the author of the article includes descriptions of Thompson that gender them as feminine. Thompson “spoke in the low tones a woman might use” and “unclasped and clasped his hands, and sobbed as he told of his double life.”

When Frank Carrick took the stand to testify in behalf of Thompson, the State objected on the grounds that a husband could not testify on behalf of his wife. The judge sustained the objection.