Tired of Being a Girl

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On September 26, 1905, Marguerite Scott was taken into custody by Long Beach police who found the young woman, dressed as a boy, wandering the streets late at night.

The following morning she was brought before Judge Brayton and had an interesting tale to tell—she was tired of being a girl.   According to her story, her father, Joseph W. Scott of Los Angeles, was a broker and well able to care for her but she would rather be a sailor and enlist in the United States navy.  Attired in a blouse, such as those worn by sailors, a long blue serge skirt and white tennis shoes, Marguerite made quite a striking appearance, according to the press, though, they added, she might easily be mistaken for a boy in disguise since she  had cut her hair short and wore it parted in the middle.

Marguerite slept in the bluff near Alamitos Bay (shown here), and would have done anything to have been a sailor, like the one pictured.

She told the judge she had been in Long Beach over a week and had spent most of her time hanging out at the harbor or the pier. At night, she said, she slept in a small cave in the bluff near Alamitos Bay.  She told police officer Williams that she loved books like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. The idea to join the navy hadn’t come from anything she read, but from her own mind.  She went on to add that she did not care for trashy reading, but she did like music. She also stated vehemently that she did not like her home and if the judge made her go back she would sleep out of doors in the back yard, under the stars, like sailors did.  She also confessed that she ran away the previous year and went to Playa del Rey.  This is the first time she ran away this year.  Perhaps the family had spoiled her a bit, her mother Mary admitted. Marguerite had been an unexpected arrival, born in January 1888, to a family that already had two daughters, and a son who was nineteen years old when the Marguerite was born. Seventeen year old Marguerite was sent home to her family in Los Angeles. But she did run away again soon afterwards, she had enjoyed her time playing the boy.

The January 6, 1906 Los Angeles Times found the young runaway again. Marguerite had been fooling the fishermen of San Diego for over a month as to her sex. Marguerite told the press that in November 1905 she left on a trip with family friends to sail to Anacapa Island, off Santa Barbara. While there she shed her skirts and put on male attire to make trips back and forth to the mainland and to adjoining islands. While on the mainland, however, she dressed as a girl.  She claimed she lost her feminine clothing overboard on one trip to Santa Barbara and that when she reached shore she only had her boy’s clothes. She claimed she had no money to buy more and decided to wear the male attire until she could earn enough money to purchase “proper” clothing.  In looking for work she came across Ed Thompson, who owned a small fishing boat and was hired on to help, no one suspecting she was a girl.  A few months later, getting tired of life at sea she revealed her true sex to Thompson. He was so upset with the deception her put her ashore at the first

Marguerite was put ashore here at Point Loma when the captain discovered she was a girl.

landing place he could find, which was at Point Loma. Although Thompson owed her $8 he set her ashore with only 20 cents in her pocket.  Afraid to contact her parents, and suffer the consequences, she applied for work as a boy, but was turned down. Continuing her wanderings, she slept out of doors and was reported to San Diego police as being a “suspicious character.” Upon questioning, her true sex was revealed and once again she was returned to her family.  Her story had many “holes” in it.  Why didn’t she return to Anacapa wearing boys’ clothing and ask the Bacon family she was vacationing with for money to buy a new outfit? Or, why didn’t she return to the Bacon’s and ask them to have her parents send her “girl” clothes? Evidently Marguerite, granted a little freedom from her earlier exploits, saw an opportunity and was at it again!

The only solution she saw was marriage. So on October 18, 1906, the now 18-year-old married 22-year-old Roy Ballou and moved to Long Beach.  Ballou was captain of the launch Flyer, owned by attorney A. C. Lawson.  Marguerite’s new husband was as adventurous as Marguerite, hunting wild boar on Santa Rosa, capturing a 15-foot octopus off Catalina Island, and more.  He was also one to get into trouble with the law. In November 1908, he was arrested for stealing a coat, revolver and two cans of tobacco belonging to B.A. Grant who owned the launch Elliott, which Ballou was looking after during the summer months. He returned the coat and revolver, but had already disposed of the tobacco. Ballou was fined $5 and given 20 days in jail.

Marguerite liked to roam around Long Beach in men’s clothing.

In 1911 Marguerite was walking through Long Beach wearing a light well-fitting gray suit, tan button shoes, a gray hat and a modish silk tie when she discovered she was being followed.  A fearful Marguerite went to the police and revealed her true sex. She caused quite a stir. They found it hard to believe she was a woman since she had even adopted a masculine tone of voice.  She tried to explain. She told them that while she was attending a convent her heavy, bushy hair proved so difficult for her to care for she cut it off and from that time on many people mistook her for a boy masquerading as a girl. As a result she decided to dress as a boy. She loved the sea and wearing masculine attire made traveling easier. She went on to add that on one of her visits to Catalina she met Ballou and they were married. Not long afterward Ballou objected to her wearing  male clothing and the pair separated for a while until Roy gave in and allowed Marguerite to pass herself off as his brother.  Why was she being followed? It seemed the unknown youth who was trailing her had been given a tip as to her identity by another woman, and curiously impelled him to follow Marguerite. He was just trying to figure out if the person he thought was a man could really be a woman. (LA Herald 6/27/1911)

Marguerite and Roy divorced sometime around 1912, when their names disappeared from Long Beach City Directories. In the 1920 U.S. Census, I located Marguerite living in Avalon on Catalina Island. She had divorced Roy and reverted to using her maiden name of Scott.  She was said to be the caretaker at a granite quarry on the island.

Catalina rock quarry where Marguerite worked.

The Los Angeles Herald caught up with her once again in April 1921. Identified as being 24 (she was really 33) she was living the life she wanted. Marguerite, known as “Jack” among sailing folks because of her preference for wearing sailor garb, explained she hated to wear lots of clothing. She usually wore a sailor’s suit unless it was warm enough to wear a bathing suit.

She claimed that for five years she had lived on the Channel Islands. She loved to hike and roam over the hills of the islands, and enjoyed the early morning mists and the moonlight and starlight at night. She had never been afraid of being alone. She said that men were the best friends she had, while women scorned her for her lifestyle.

Marguerite’s yawl would have looked like this.

She had her own small yawl-rigged yacht Palomino, which she used to sail among the islands and down the Mexican coast.  She ate no meat, simply living on vegetables, fruit and nuts. She would build her own hut ashore wherever she decided to drop anchor. She also managed her own upkeep on the Palomino, scraping, calking and painting it.

She told the Herald reporter she was ready for a new adventure. She was going to sell her beloved yawl and other possessions and go to the Hawaiian Islands and live among the natives.  This she did. Later that year she sailed aboard the SS Wilhelmina to Honolulu. There she met William Henry Tiemeyer a boat builder from the Netherlands.  Tiemeyer owned his own boat building business. It is not known if Marguerite, who now called herself Arcadia Marguerite Scott, had again donned her sailor attire and went to work for him disguised as a boy. If so, it would be interesting to learn when she did tell him her true sex.  In any case I am sure they had an interesting romance and life together.

Tiemeyer, who was the same age as Marguerite, would join the Navy during World War II, as he had during World War I. The couple moved to San Diego after the war, William dying November 29, 1951. Marguerite would live a long life, almost making it to 100 years of age. The woman who the Herald described as the only American girl who lived such a free life in the open and on the water, passed away in San Diego on December 2, 1987. She is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale, “beloved auntie” written on her tombstone.