On this day: Charles Winslow Hall, ‘exposed by illness’

Charles Winslow Hall
Charles Winslow Hall

A ship’s doctor noticed Charles Winslow Hall’s chest binding when he fell ill on a trip home to America. Sadly, Charles consequently died, September 29, 1901, before the ship reached Boston and newspapers went to town: Passenger Clad in Male Attire — and Bringing a Wife — Exposed by Illness.

Born into a wealthy Massachusetts family with an architect father and artist mother, Charles Winslow Hall followed in his mother’s footsteps. At seventeen, he travelled to Italy with her to study art and remained in Europe most of his life.

Charles began wearing masculine clothing while studying at a Milanese academy. He did so with the full knowledge and approval of loving parents who ignored the social norms of the era to offer their child unconditional love.

In around 1895, Charles met Giuseppina Boriani. The pair became inseparable. Charles was not short of a dollar. Besides his family wealth, he enjoyed a successful painting career, specialising in portraits and animals. A fan of the famously butch French lesbian painter, Rosa Bonheur, he was said to take inspiration from her powerful paintings of animals.

Charles Winslow Hall
Plaster portrait relief by Charles Winslow Hall. Image: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Charles and Giuseppina travelled around Italy together, first as brother and sister. However, Giuseppina said their relationship aroused suspicion because Charles spoke Italian with a strong American accent while she did not. So, recognising that most people assumed them a romantic couple, they became husband and wife.

Charles Winslow Hall’s mother also lived in Italy for much of her life and remained close to her son. However, she died in 1901 and Charles decided to travel home to Boston with Giuseppina to visit his aging father.

During the trip, he fell ill and died.

Newspaper reports

Newspaper reports of Charles’s death focused on his illness ‘exposing’ that he had been assigned female at birth. ‘Exposed’ to the public, yes. But not to the people who mattered in his life; the people who loved him.

Following are extracts from the most widely reprinted report of the death. I have made slight edits to refer to Charles solely by the pronouns and name of his choice.

Passenger from Italy Clad in Male Attire and Bringing a Wife Exposed by Illness.


“Death unmasked Charles Winslow Hall on the Italian steamer Citta di Torino at quarantine this morning.

“For Charles Winslow Hall, like Murray Hall, who died here last year, was a woman.

“Murray Hall left a wife. So did Charles Winslow Hall.

“Both dressed, drank, smoked, and acted like men for years before their death, and neither was suspected.

“The steamer Citta di Torino arrived on Sunday from Mediterranean and Azores ports. Among the passengers was a delicate, blue-eyed, beardless person, who, according to the ship’s manifest was Charles Winslow Hall.

“With him, a 24-year-old red-cheeked, olive-skinned Italian woman. She has big, lustrous eyes, and cannot speak enough English to make herself understood by an American.

“Registered as Mrs Giuseppina Hall, she said she was the wife of Charles Winslow Hall.

“Mr Hall and his wife were constantly with each other on the voyage…

“When the ship was within six days of Sandy Hook, Hall was unable to leave his berth, and the ship’s surgeons, Drs Gillto Angrisani and Niccola Rann were asked to look after him. Dr Angrisani talked with the patient and suspected that Mr Hall was a woman [after noticing chest binding], and verified his suspicions.

“Hall never left his berth again alive. He failed gradually as the ship ran into colder latitudes.

“While the Citta di Torino was in quarantine at 2:33 o’clock this morning, Hall succumbed to consumption.”

Charles Winslow Hall
Charles and Giuseppina pictured in the Boston Post. The newspapers seemed somewhat taken aback that Mrs Hall was both beautiful & intelligent.

The funeral

Charles Winslow Hall’s father arranged a private funeral to keep rubber-neckers away. He invited Giuseppina Boriani to stay at the family residence and to attend the funeral. However, the elderly Mr Hall, almost 80, an invalid, and reliant on the help of his less tolerant sister, seems to have bowed to convention and had Charles buried in a dress. The Boston Post reported in amazement on the grief of the widow. (Similar edits to pronouns etc as above.)

“The most striking feature of the funeral services and burial of Charles Hall was the strange, almost unnatural grief of Josephine [Giuseppina] Boriani, the Italian woman who for 10 years was his constant companion.

“Perhaps the grief this lone Italian girl felt, was accentuated by the knowledge that she is now without friends or kin in an unknown land. But her sobs and cries were all for Charles, the name she applied to Hall during the long time of their companionship. Then, too, the body, as Miss Boriani looked at it for the last time, was clad in woman’s garments. This was an odd source of sorrow to the girl, who declared that her beloved friend would have preferred to have been buried in the male attire which he had used for a decade.”

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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