A real-life gender bender Eugenia Falleni became a media sensation in Australia and beyond when “he” had killed his wifeBirkett in 1914 who had disappeared after saying she knew “something amazing about Harry.”
Leading a double life, Harry Crawford – real name Eugenia Falleni – originally of Stanmore, was arrested and charged with murdering “his” wife after passing herself off as a man since 1899.
Falleni had married Annie Birkett in 1914, but three years later, after announcing she had found out “something amazing about Harry,” she disappeared.
Born near Livorno, Italy per family accounts, Falleni was the eldest of 22 children, of whom seventeen (ten boys and seven girls) had actually survived.
She had migrated with her family to Wellington, New Zealand around 1877, aged about two. Her father was a stern disciplinarian who worked as a carrier with a horse and cart and as fisherman, among other occupations.
Eugenia, after repeatedly dressing as a boy to obtain work in brickyards and stables during her teen years, left home in the guise of a cabin boy, sailing for Australia.
By her own account, her gender was discovered aboard the ship, and she put ashore pregnant in Newcastle, Australia, in 1898, either as a result of a rape or a consensual relationship.
In the same year Eugenia gave birth to a daughter, Josephine, in Sydney, and put her into the care of an Italian-born woman in Double Bay.
Taking on a male identity as “Harry Leo Crawford,” of Scottish descent, Eugenia did a series of manual jobs at meatworks, pubs and in a rubber factory.
By 1912 Eugenia, now Harry, entered into the employ of a Dr G. R. C. Clarke in Wahroongah, Northern Sydney, as a moody but useful driver.
The on 19 February 1913 at the Methodist Parsonage in inner city Balmain, Eugenia claimed to be a widower aged 38, and married Annie Birkett, a widow of 35 who had a 13-year-old son, who had been working as housekeeper for a local pysician, Dr Clarke.
Annie then set up her own confectionery shop in Balmain, evidently unaware that her husband was not a man! But by October of 1917, Annie’s body was found in a forested picnic area near the Lane Cove River.
In 1919 Harry married again, this time with a spinster Elizabeth King. A year and a month later, Harry was tried and found guilty of murder and served an 11 year sentence.
Then in 1931 as a “free man” Eugenia took on the name “Jean Ford” and a became a proprietor of a boarding house in Paddington Sydney.
In 1938, Jean (not too far from Eugenia this time!) stepped off the pavement and into the way of a car on Oxford Street and died of her injuries.
Among her “male” clothing in a locked suitcase, police were able to find a “dildo” made of wood and rubber that had been bound with cloth. Her prosthetic to complete the drag? Effective…