Ray Leonard grave
Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery
200 Dodge Street
Buried in this cemetery are the remains of Ray Leonard (1849-1921), an Oregon pioneer who was, in fact, a passing woman. Born “Rae,” Leonard was a cobbler who emigrated to Oregon with her father in 1889, and who, with his apparent approval, began wearing men’s clothing and passing as his son “Ray.” When the elder Leonard died in 1894, Ray took over his local boot and shoemaking business. According to residents of Lebanon, Ray “dressed in overalls, and was thought by most who knew her, including the census taker, to be a man.”
In 1911, Ray’s “secret” was discovered by a frontier doctor, Mary Canaga Rowlands, when Ray was committed to an asylum under Dr. Rowlands’ care. On Ray’s medical chart the doctor noted that the patient experienced “hallucinations and illusions of…hearing people trying to get into [the] room.” The medical records also listed him as a “widower” but gave no information about his wife.
Dr. Rowlands died in 1966, and her autobiography was published in 1995 by her grand-nephew. In it, she revealed how Ray Leonard’s birth gender was detected. “It is customary to strip each patient entering the hospital,” she wrote, “and give them a bath before they are given quarters. The hospital immediately discovered that Ray Leonard…was a woman. After her secret was out, Ray made a rapid recovery and came back to Lebanon to live the rest of her life.”
According to the doctor’s account, “the authorities made her [sic] wear dresses, but she confided to her friends that she wore pants below her dress because her legs got cold.” Ray clearly identified as male, asking the doctor, who continued to treat him when he was ill, “Look at me… do you think I have one feminine feature?” Finally, he died in 1921 – and his newspaper obituary referred to him as a woman.