"Joe" Becker, Assistant Superintendent Gordon, Brace Memorial Lodging House, Josephine Beck, Matron Hike, newsboys' house, newsgirls, runaway
From the May 1, 1904 edition of The Sun:
“Newsboy” Josephine Beck?
As Joe Becker She Fooled the Lodging House.
She’s 14, and She Acted Like a Girl in Some Ways, but Her Sex Wasn’t Suspected Until She Had Been Sent to the Children’s Aid Society’s Kensico Farm.
Mrs. Charles F. Beck of Newark, N.J., learned yesterday of the appearance at the Newsboys’ Lodging House in this city of Joe Becker, who turned out to be a girl, and she believes that the child is her fourteen-year-old daughter Josephine, who left home on April 14.
The girl disappeared with part of her father’s and part of her brother’s clothing. In her room were found curls of her hair and the scissors with which she had cut them off.
Mrs. beck came to New York last night searching for the child, who had been sent from the lodging house to the Children’s Aid Society’s farm at Kensico and then, when her sex was discovered, returned to this city.
The officials of the society were noncommittal yesterday about the Joe who should have been Josephine, barely admitting that a girl had been at the lodging house and that she is now in one of their institutions. But the newsboys, Matron Hike and Assistant Superintendent Gordon had ideas of their own and freely expressed them.
“Just eleven days ago—to-night,” said Gordon, consulting his register, “he—er,she—came here late at night and asked for a night’s lodging. That’s not unusual. It happens every night. The only thing I noticed was high scared-like voice and eyes as pretty as a girl’s. Joe—that was the name he gave—was bashful, but lots of boys at first are.
“Now this is the pedigree of Josephine, or whatever his—or her—name is.” And Gordon produced a filled out official blank, which stated:
Name? Joseph Becker.
Born? Newark, N.J., Aug 3, 1889.
Parents? No answer.
Profession of trade? Brush maker.
Last employer? J. J. Pett.
Why not working now? Can’t get any.
Ever been in an institution? No.
How much money have you been making? Three dollars a week.
Can you read or write? Yes.
Where have you been during the last week? Roving.
Have you any friends? No.
the boy-girl got a berth in the big five cent dormitory on the third floor, and slept late the next morning. When she appeared at the superintendent’s office about 11 o’clock she asked for some kind of work, and was told to assist the janitor in cleaning up.
“That’s where my first suspicions came in,” said the janitor. “Never a boy could make a bed quick and tidy as that.”
“I just thought he was the prettiest, sweetest little boy I ever come across,” said Matron Hite. “He was so polite and he used to blush when the boys said things.”
“Gee!” said one of the newsboys in the “Waldorf” dormitory, so called because there are a chair and a little locker for each bed and because the cost is 15 cents the night. “Gee! That kid Joe’s a girl.”
“Say, yer slow, Mike,” answered his partner, “yer slow. Half the fellers called him ‘sis.’ Pat Hanley says she gave herself dead away in the gym first time she went there. Somebody pitched a ball her way and she tried to ketch it in her lap.
“She didn’t want to mix up wid us much, ‘cept in sellin’ papers,” said another boy. “Said she wus from de country and asked Pete to show her how ter sell papers. Den she beats Pete at his own game. Say, she had us conned all right, all right. but I wouldn’t ha’ bullied her so much ef I’d ha knowed she wus a girl.”
Just what the real antecedents of Josephine are, no one seems to know. She told several tales, all of which vary and it is believed that she is a runaway girl. She gave her age at first as 15, later as 14, and it is now stated that she is 13. She is about 5 feet tall, well built, blue eyed and golden haired. Her hair was cut short and parted on one side. She had smooth, fair skin and a pretty mouth and teeth.
The youngster’s real sex, it is said, was not discovered until Wednesday, when the superintendent of the society’s farm at Kensico, where Josephine had been sent, became suspicious and asked the disguised adventuress to reveal her identity. Then she confessed.