Kate Dickson first appeared in the racist newspapers of Leavenworth, Kansas on August 29, 1895, when The Leavenworth Times reported that she had been stabbed three or four times on the breast by “the notorious Lulu Jefferson,” and that “none of the stabs were fatel.” The news report included the information that Kate had also been stabbed a few months earlier by Annie Oldham. The paper described Annie as “a police terror” and claimed she ran a gang of African American thieves engaged in robbing veterans.

Dry glass plate negative of Kansas State Penitentiary inmate Kate Dickson, prisoner #9515. (Kansas Memory/Kansas Historical Society)

Lulu, who was described in the Times as a “Cyprian” (a lewd or licentious person, especially a prostitute), had herself been slashed in the cheek by another woman, Lizzie Bailey, the previous year. The wound was described as “two inches long, in her right cheek and nearly through the flesh into her mouth.” The cut was sewn up without anesthetic. The police considered Lulu to be “a tough girl.”

Lulu spent time in jail for the assault on Kate Dickson.

Kate continued to be mentioned regularly in the Leavenworth papers over the next few years. Most of the articles were about her getting into fights with other poor women. Often she used a razor in the attacks. There were also the occasional articles about her arrests for being drunk and disorderly.

An attack by Kate on Julia Smith while both women were being held in jail led to her being charged with assault with intent to kill. Evidently the authorities took a hard line against Kate this time because she was convicted of the crime. She was sent to the state prison in Lansing, where she served a one-year sentence.

Kate’s mugshots, taken shortly before she was released from the penitentiary, clearly show a terrible scar across her nose and cheek. Was it the result of the knife attack by Lulu Jefferson, perhaps incorrectly reported to have been in her breast? Or maybe it was from the stabbing by Annie Oldham? But Kate inhabited a violent world, and the scar might have been the result of an attack that wasn’t reported in the newspaper.

In April 1901 the Times claimed that “The police will regret to learn her sentence is soon to expire.” Nonetheless, Kate was released that month and “restored to citizenship” by the governor of Kansas.

The following month she was arrested in Leavenworth for vagrancy and using profane language. It was the final mention of Kate in the area newspapers. Evidently, she’d had enough of Eastern Kansas and had moved on.

5 thoughts on “Slashed

  1. She has the profile of a girl, and a face of such deep hopelessness. She looks as if she never had a reason to smile. This picture is haunting. I hope she escaped and found something better. Travel well Kate. You are remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

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