Although many folks in late 1852 were following the activities of Frederick Douglass or newly elected President Franklin Pierce, in Boston they were following the escapades of Emma Snodgrass. On December 29, Boston police arrested her again, another of many run-ins with the law beginning that Fall. This desperado was a tiny 17-year-old daughter of a New York policeman who had set Bostonian tongues awagging by appearing in public “donning the breeches.” Wearing pants, that is. She was arrested the first time in November and promptly sent back to New York.
But didn’t she just come back again and set right in “visiting places of amusement around Boston.” She circulated among “all the drinking houses, made several violent attempts to talk ‘horse,’ and do other things for which “‘fast’ boys are noted” breathlessly reported one of the local papers.
Her notoriety spread. She was ‘the wanderer in man’s apparel,’ the ‘foolish girl who goes around in virile toggery’ and ‘an eccentric female who roams about town.’ Back in New York, the Daily Times wondered: “what her motive may be for thus obstinately rejecting the habiliments of her own sex.”
She didn’t return to Boston. But during the next several months, there were Emma Snodgrass sightings practically everywhere else. She was reportedly sent home from Richmond, Virginia, sent before a judge in Albany, New York, spotted in Buffalo and Cleveland.
Emma Snodgrass, “the girl in pantaloons” was last seen in Louisville, on her way to California or Australia, reported the Fort Wayne Times and Peoples. But then a strange news report came out of Lancaster, Wisconsin: “Emma Snodgrass has repented, gone home, taken off her breeches, and sworn eternal attachment to petticoats and propriety.”
Could it be? We’ll never know, since it was the last news report. Emma Snodgrass had disappeared.