I dream of Genia

Queenwilly alerted me to this story about Eugenia Falleni via the Sydney Morning Herald from the archives at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum 

Eugenia found here

The case of a transgender husband, Harry Crawford (Eugenia Falleni) convicted of murdering his wife had 1920s Sydney society in thrall, writes Tim Barlass.

By all accounts, Annie Birkett died a horrible death. Her charred body was found in open land near a flour mill in Chatswood, with cracks to her skull that could have formed through intense heat or by violence.

see larger image of Annie Birkett here 

Photographs of Mrs Birkett recently obtained by the Justice & Police Museum reveal her to be a refined and attractive woman, described later by one witness as ”very ladylike, a very quiet reserved woman never seen under the influence of liquor”.

But when she disappeared, Crawford told others that she had ‘‘cleared out with a plumber”, that she was a heavy drinker and that he had seen her a couple of times since then in Sydney.

It was not the victim that gave the case such notoriety in 1917, but her transgender husband, Harry Crawford, who was eventually convicted of her murder. 

Eugenia found here

On 19 February 1913 at the Methodist Parsonage in inner city Balmain, claiming to be a widower aged 38, Crawford went through a marriage ceremony with Annie Birkett, a widow of 35 with a 13-year-old son. Annie set up a confectionery shop in Balmain, evidently unaware that her husband was not a man, while Harry continued as a peripatetic manual worker.

Now Adriano Zumbo makes confectionery in Balmain

In 1917, after Annie had apparently threatened to report her husband to the authorities for his deception, the couple quarreled and Annie disappeared. Her body was discovered in October that year, partially burned and with cracks to the skull, in a forested picnic area near the Lane Cove River, but it remained unidentified for over two years. In the meantime, in September 1919, Harry Crawford underwent another marriage ceremony with Elizabeth King Allison, a spinster.

Spinster found here

Also in the intervening time, Annie’s son had alerted the police to his mother’s prolonged disappearance; the body of Annie was exhumed and identified, and Harry was arrested on 5 July 1920. At the time of his arrest, while living with Elizabeth in a house in Stanmore, he asked to be placed in the women’s cells and requested that his wife be not apprised that he was not a man. Among male clothing in a locked leather suitcase, police located an ‘article’, later exhibited in court, made of wood and rubber bound with cloth in the shape of a phallus or dildo.

image found here

At Falleni’s preliminary hearing and trial for murder at Darlinghurst courthouse in October 1920, the ‘Man-Woman case’ created a press sensation, with the accused appearing in the dock first in a man’s suit and then in women’s clothes. Falleni pleaded not guilty to the murder, but her alleged immorality in passing herself off as a man was made much of in the popular press, which portrayed her as a monster and a pervert.

Chief Justice Sir William Cullen in his summing up said: ”It would almost seem incredible that two people could live together for three years without Mrs Birkett discovering that an imposition had been practised …”

female johnny depp impersonator found here 

She was convicted and condemned to death, but her sentence was commuted to detainment at the Governor’s Pleasure. When released from Long Bay Prison eleven years later in February 1931 she became the proprietor of a boarding house in Paddington, Sydney. On 9 June 1938 she stepped off the pavement in front of a motorcar in nearby Oxford Street, and died of her injuries the following day.

Paddington Reservoir Oxford Street found here

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55 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. If I am in my welding clothes, people don’t know I am a woman. That is why my work now is to make protective welding apparel look vibrant and sexy.

    • I don’t imagine that’s going to be easy but I wish you lots of luck!

    • I guess nude welding would be a bad idea.

  2. Wow! Just … wow!

    Shades of the Pyjama Girl in that story (that was my introduction to you, Nursie).

    • Ooh the Pyjama Girl was a good one wasn’t it?

  3. I love these twisted tales of queer old Sydney…from my childhood home Balmain no less!

    • James I had no idea you were from Sydney!

      • ’tis true! Grew up in Balmain…Nicholson St Primary…Fort St *heavy sigh*

  4. I think many women can pass off for Johnny Depp cuz he does have a feminine angle to his face. I always thought that Kate Moss looked a lot like Johnny Depp at some angles.

    A good read.

    • Yes, he has very fine bone structure

  5. To sustain this sort of deception, lovemaking must have been a very functional act.

  6. I err wonder which house in Stanmore, it wasn’t a rather large pile was it? A little like a small castle?

    The King

    • Will we ever know….?

  7. I understand that Eugenie was not convicted of the murder.
    Thank you too for the very interesting links, kokigami sounds nice, and Mr. Zumbo’s productions seem worth a smaller world trip!

    • No, she was convicted, they eventually found her guilty.

  8. Bloody hell!

  9. that’s quite a tool kit…

  10. Trans sexual murderer. Ah it’s is grist for your mill Nursie!

  11. This story reminds me of the novel “Smoke” by Elizabeth Ruth – a wonderful book.
    But in both cases, I had to wonder at the “innocence” of the wives re: the “imposition.” Obviously, such naiveté is possible.

    • I’ll have to look it up.

  12. Why are those dildo things always so much bigger than the real thing?

    Oh….they’re not, you say? Oh………….

  13. Eugenia is more feminine in profile and this is the first time I’ve been attracted to Johnny Depp … well ….. nearly the first time …

    • She had rather a lovely nose.

  14. Now that’s a sad one 😦

    • Yes, that’s what I thought. If his sexual orientation had been recognised and accepted, perhaps there would not have been that grisly murder.
      Makes me concerned about Prop 8 (USA )

  15. Such a sad story in all aspects. I don’t think I’d want to live in a time and space where people were so ignorant of basic anatomy. I can assure you that a woman passing herself off as a man would not be able to carry on the deception in my bed, and I suspect not in yours either, Nursemyra. But in those days, I don’t suppose it would have been that difficult, especially not deceiving a “refined” lady. Oh well.

  16. a fascinating story i can see in some ways how it could happen as they never had a light on and lovemaking was basic for a woman who did not know much about a male they usually just gave in to what the man wanted and by the look of the box of tricks then how was she to know in the dark lol i say trying to convince myself a great read xxjen

  17. I feel like I’ve heard this story before but would it have been here? Not sure. Anyhow, I think it’s absolutely amazing that this person could pass this off for such a long time.

    • I haven’t written about this case before but there have been quite a few similar ones featured on the gimcrack

  18. Sydney seems to have been a hotbed of – well – maybe just a hot bed! Perth seems so much more refined. On the other hand, perhaps I should get out more 🙂

    • Just don’t go to Adelaide….

      • Who goes to Adelaide? No one lives there – – –

  19. Maybe Euginie could have pulled it off a little “Longer” had he/she of settled for a little more realistic tools…I mean, poor little Annie probably “Needed” a drink after two years of those things….and a plumber…

  20. Again I ask, how do you live with a woman that long without knowing?

  21. The Sydney Justice and Police Museum is a fabulous place for an afternoon out, Nursie… I knew the curator in the 90s. He loved his job.

    • Ok, you’re on. Let’s go.

  22. Am I the only one who thinks that top photo looks like Ellen DeGeneres all gussied up as a man?

  23. I still wonder how Eugenia managed to hide her lack of appropriate (or possibly, ahem, priapic…) equipment. Especially since it wasn’t like Annie was a complete novice at the whole marriage thing.

    And I further wonder if anyone had ever described the murder as “Eugeniacs”… us coyotes have inquiring minds, that way…

    • I have noticed that

  24. It always makes me laugh a bit to see a syringe crammed into an entree.
    As you can tell I won’t be getting ‘infused’ with a Michelan star anytime soon.

  25. I read the part about breaking a skull open via extreme heat and that just ruined the rest of the post for me as I sat and wondered how it was possible to do that.

  26. I haven’t met many transgendered people who had quiet, happy, long lives.

  27. Same question as all the others – how on earth did Annie not realise for four years that her husband was not what he appeared to be? I mean, some people are touchingly innocent but even so.

  28. I guess she didn’t check her husband’s certificate of authenticity.

  29. she must’ve been popular on the inside.

  30. No one expects the “imposition.” Err, inquisition.

  31. Mind you, a well-known blogger was caught out in Thailand (although it was just a one-off)

    • Thanks for pointing me in Fweng’s direction.

      • Also, just forgot to add, that Spinster comic poster is a classic! I can see that ending up in someone’s Christmas stocking.

        With apologies for mentioning Christmas,

  32. Eugenia’s side profile looks a bit feminine.

    • Sorry, hit reply before I was finished.

      Kind of surprising that h(is)er wives never really caught on.

  33. Why do I read your blog before guitar class? I’m never going to be able to play anything after reading this.

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