One of my favorite videos
This is Albert D. J. Cashier. He holds a special place in my heart because he’s one of the first trans stories I heard that wasn’t contemporary.He was born in 1843 in Ireland and immigrated to the US, eventually settling in Illinois. Some histories say he came over as a stowaway on a ship. Some say he moved with family. All the stories agree that he was called Jennie Hodgers and assigned female at birth.
Albert began living as a man in the US and when president Lincoln put out a call for soldiers Albert went to enlist. He’d learned that the examination to enter the service only looked to see that you were able bodied, with good vision, and had enough teeth to tear open a cartridge.Albert joined the 95th Illinois volunteer infantry, fighting in 40 battles during his 3 years of service.
His fellow soldiers knew Albert to have a foul mouth and mostly kept to himself. They would tease him for not being able to grow a beard and being small in stature giving him the nickname “Little Al”. None of them called into question his gender. He worked just as hard as everyone else. And was event brave enough to climb a tree during a battle, dodging bullets to hang a union flag. At one point, he was even captured by the enemy but managed to quickly escape.
After his service, Albert settled into a quiet life working various odd jobs as a farm hand, lamplighter, and mechanic. The Lannon family, who he worked for, had a small house built for Albert to live in. Today, the house is a historical site commemorating Cashier’s life.
In 1910 while working for Senator Ira Lish; the senator hit Albert with his Model T. Albert’s leg was shattered. The doctor caring for him discovered Albert’s secret. The doctor agreed to protect Albert’s identity and the senator arranged for Albert to live at the soldier and sailors home. With this injury and his advanced age, Albert would no longer be able to work.
At the Soldiers and Sailors home, Albert lived peacefully for a few years before someone discovered his assigned gender. A huge scandal broke out with Albert’s story splashing over newspapers. A fraud investigation was brought against Albert for the veterans’ pension he had been collecting for years.
At this point his comrades from the 95th stepped forward in Albert’s defense. They all confirmed that Albert was the person they fought with and should be able to collect the pension.
A deposition you might find in Alberts file says: "I learned that Albert D.J. Cashier is a woman I never suspected anything of the kind.
He goes on to talk about the side by side photo of younger and older Albert saying “ I have no doubt about the left hand figure being the picture of Albert D.J. Cashier.
The depositions ends with saying, he has “no interest in persecution of this claim."
The allegations were dropped, allowing Albert to continue collecting the pension. Albert was then transferred to Watertown State Hospital psychiatric ward. He was diagnosed with dementia. There he was put into the women’s ward and made to wear a dress. While it may be that Albert Cashier had dementia, it is also possible he was committed for identifying as a man. There is also the possibility that the mental strain of keeping this secret had deteriorated his mental health and being exposed certainly would not have helped.
In Watertown, Albert hated the women’s dresses he was forced to wear. He used safety pins to make them more like trousers.
One day he tripped on one of these skirts and broke his hip. This injury became infected and lead to his death.
When Albert died he was buried with full military honors under the name Albert J.D. Cashier. It actually took the estate executor nine years to track down the name Jennie Hodgers. He had been living as Albert for so long.
If you take a look in Albert’s tool box here you’ll find safety pins. You’re welcome to take one as a reminder of Albert’s fight to be his truest self throughout his life.