BookHampton Book Club: "Scandal on Plum Island"
JOIN US FOR THE (VIRTUAL) JULY MEETING OF THE BOOKHAMPTON BOOK CLUB!
THE BOOKHAMPTON BOOK CLUB MEETS THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH AT 7PM. PLEASE JOIN US!
Author Marian E. Lindberg will join us for this book club meeting!
The captain wore a see-through dress. No dispute about that. Even the captain admitted that in a certain light, guests at the party could see the outline of his body through the muslin shift. Months later, a lawyer would press for details: Was the dress tied at the waist? What color and length were the captain's socks? Did others treat him "as if you were a woman"? (From chapter one, "Cross-Dressing For Halloween")
The carefree parties on Plum Island drew the ire of Maj. Benjamin Koehler, yet he would be the man arrested and accused of "immoral conduct" at the end of 1913. Koehler, a West Point alumnus and Philippine War veteran, had been tasked with bringing discipline to the 700 men living at Fort Terry, a sprawling post on a beautiful island off New York's coast. He lived on officers row with his sister, an educated and independent woman who, like her brother, was unmarried. Little did the devoted siblings know that Fort Terry would soon be the stuff of front-page headlines, with Ben Koehler at the center of them--and not for his dutiful service to his country.
The claims that Fort Terry's commander had groped male subordinates shocked the Army and Koehler's supporters, but the accusers were smart, triggering one of the first high-profile instances of federal legal process against a high-level military officer. Well before "homophobia" was a term, Koehler struggled to prove that the accusers were lying in a trial rife with innuendo and ill-informed ideas about how a "homo-sexualist" would behave.
Thoroughly researched, involving historical figures as contrasting as Theodore Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony, Scandal on Plum Island follows Koehler from respected officer to vilified outcast and turns up provocative information about his defense. His story is set in the context of changing standards of masculinity as the action moves from America's heartland to New York City, the Philippines, San Francisco, eastern Long Island, and government offices in Washington, D.C. In addition to telling a fast-moving and compelling story, Scandal on Plum Island speaks directly to modern discussions of gender norms, testimonial injustice, the high cost of stereotypes, and other issues of pressing concern.
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