Billarion

Long before Brangelina came into being, Australia was home to the entity known as  Billarion

Young Angelina found here

Marion (Bill) Edwards, transsexual barman, pony trainer and bookmaker, was born in 1874 at Murchison, Victoria.  According to her fanciful memoir, Life and Adventures of Marion-Bill-Edwards, she worked on her uncle’s farm on the Goulburn River, and as a waitress, refused offers of marriage and ‘made hot love’ to women. About 1896 she decided to dress and live as a man, claiming that this earned her more money. Edwards later purported to have appeared as a female impersonator entertaining troops in Africa during the Boer War and to have delivered horses to India. He was, shall we say, very much a ladies man.

image found here

As William Ernest Edwards, in 1900 at St Francis’s Catholic Church, Melbourne, Marion went through a form of marriage with a 30-year-old widow Lucy Minihan, a lodging-house proprietor. In her memoir, Edwards claimed that they had a healthy sex life – although he always declared that Lucy never suspected his true sex. In 1905, arrested for burglary when found in a hotel at 3 a.m., Marion explained her presence by saying she was trying to catch a prowler. Fearful that her gender would be discovered she absconded to Queensland. Her ‘wife’, who had put up bail of £50, was sentenced to one month’s gaol for Bill’s default.

image of a different Lucy found here

After a second arrest in Brisbane in October 1906, women showered her with gifts and billets doux.  A celebrity once her masquerade was revealed, Edwards returned to Melbourne after a spectacular send off, appearing in court in female attire. She was described as a wealthy girl, rough rider, masquerader, alleged burglar, fighter, barman and ingenious lover. Taking advantage of the publicity, she performed as a sharpshooter in an exhibition between film shows at the Fitzroy Cyclorama where she accidentally shot a member of the audience. She also appeared at Kreitmayer’s Waxworks, billed as ‘The Far-famed Male Impersonator’.

Fitzroy Cyclorama found here

At her eventual trial in November 1906 she was found not guilty. About this time her memoir was published, illustrated with photographs of her posing in male and female garb. It was titled The Life and Adevntures of Marion Bill Edwards, the Most Celebrated Man-Woman of Modern Times: Exciting Incidents, Strange Sensations, Told in the Graphic Manner by Herself. Interviewed by Lone Hand in 1908, she was described as a modern Mademoiselle De Maupin: “She liked her own sex, and they liked her. The girls ran after her for she was a lovable man with nice ways.”

sharp shooter Annie Oakley found here

Although there are references to Edwards in Truth and police records on ‘sly-grog’ matters, nothing was proven. A newspaper article in 1927 referred to her as a pony trainer at Port Melbourne. Living in West Melbourne from 1930, her lesbian notoriety forgotten, but still in male attire, she worked in hotels, and iron foundries, and as a starting price bookmaker. Neighbours knew she was female but described her later as a ‘ nice old gentleman’. Bill preferred to appear as a male. Nevertheless, near the end of her life the Mount Royal Geriatric Home forced her to dress in women’s clothes. She died in March 1956 and was buried in Fawkner cemetery.

Fawkner Cemetery found here

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44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That is a great example of someone who lived life totally on their own terms. Considering the time in which this took place, it is pretty amazing.

    • Yes, she sounds like a great character

  2. Looking at that piccy of Lucy it’s quite amazing that the human race is still in existence.

    • I’m sure met Lucy one night. Didn’t realise it until the following morning!

      • Archie!!

  3. she wasn’t much of a sharp-shooter if she accidentally shot a member of the audience ! :wink:

    • Unless it were intentional…..

    • That’s what I was going to say!

      • “you took the words right out of my mouth…”

  4. I think it’s cruel that they forced her to wear women’s clothing at the Geriatric home… just because she was old and couldn’t dress herself.
    You do uncover some amazing stories, Ms Nurse!
    Sx

    • I agree. It’s not very nice to force a dress on her against her will.

    • I agree — at that point, she’d lost some of her independence and needed to have more control, not less, over the small things in life.

    • My thoughts, too.

    • Me too.

      • Me five.

      • Me six — I was thinking that as I was reading that bit

  5. Billarion led a fascinating and long life – and on his/her terms – right up until the end – such an indignity to be subjected to at that point…

    • We have two transgendered (m to f) patients, they both still dress as women, though only one of them does it with style

  6. I’ve often wanted to ‘accidentally’ shoot a member of the cast, let alone the audience…

    The King

    • Yes, a certain poet springs to mind

  7. A hint for you nursemyra….don’t put pictures/links of Angelina at the beginning of your articles or you may find many of your male readers never get past that point.

    • but she’s fully covered up

  8. Lucy was a fantastic find. We learned so much early humans as she was able to dismiss many earlier theories. The Ice Man was as meaningful find as well.

  9. Another life less ordinary. Thanks for sharing Nursie!

  10. I knew a girl who went to high school with Angelina. She said she spent her day stoned in the bathroom.

    • She’s admitted to a lot of drug use in her past hasn’t she?

  11. He/she sounds like a transvestite rather than a transsexual, but perhaps I’ve missed something. Anyway, as Melbo says, someone who defied the rules and wouldn’t be shoved into a convenient slot. Excellent.

    • Perhaps if hormone therapy had been around then she would have opted for a transgendered lifestyle. I wouldn’t say she was just a transvestite, it seems to me to go deeper than that. Then again, why are we so obsessed with labelling people. I guess we’re socialised to do so and it’s a hard habit to break

  12. it would be convenient to dress as a woman or a man at will… i may have to study the art of “Drag King”…

    • Years ago I worked with a widow who was so “lost” after her husband died she took to wearing his suits. Damn! She looked spanking!Must have been in her late 50s.

      • I still wear Stephen’s clothes from time to time. Mostly just his t shirts, but in winter I’ve worn his hat, scarf and gloves

  13. Interesting how gender-bending was associated with criminality. Perhaps taking risks attracted bad luck. A fascinating tale.

  14. I wonder if a woman would make more money dressing as a man in this day and age. I suppose it would depend upon the job. Still. It makes you think.

    • It would depend on the job, but generally I think the answer is yes

  15. I’ve always wanted to see a forensic explanation of “conjugal relations” in the 1800s. There seem to have been a remarkable number of people who made love to same-sex partners and thought they were of the opposite sex.
    Or maybe my dad didn’t give me the FULL “birds and bees” story……

    • women were kept in the dark back then ;-)

  16. People who work in old aged homes have a lot to answer for.

  17. A little old fashioned but I don’t mind…that you wear a dress…

    • Oh no… earworm, earworm

    • I saw the John Lennon Story last night… was brought to mind then of Rod…and Maggie May.
      Bless You
      paul

  18. So was He a She, or She a He? Or, just someone confused …pretending to be?
    As you have refereed herm to he, and she on several different occasions.. I’m a little confused.
    Bless You
    paul

    • She appears to have been born female but identified with the male gender.

  19. I loved this story — from beginning to end a fascinating life. The accidental (or not) shooting of the bystander, the determination to live life on her own terms, and her success at it. I found this whole thing to be inspirational.


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