How a PNW cowboy shattered 19th-century gender norms

Harry Allen was an outlaw of a different sort. 

Long before transgender rights were headline news, a man by the name of Harry Allen was challenging gender norms in the Pacific Northwest, making headlines of his own during the gold rush era of the late-19th century. He was a cowboy, he was a bartender, he was an outlaw and he was assigned female gender at birth. Allen lived on the rough edge of society, worked jobs reserved for men, had relationships with women, and wore pants (which was controversial enough to land him in jail). By challenging Victorian norms, he was plagued by scandal and became a popular newspaper figure. A pioneer, he struggled for his own identity and ultimately paid a steep price for it. In this episode of Mossback's Northwest, Knute Berger tells his story.


Get the latest in local arts and culture

This weekly newsletter brings arts news and cultural events straight to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to receive occasional membership emails from Crosscut/Cascade Public Media.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.