1812 - 1879

“The discoveries of the successful concealment for protracted periods of the female sex under the disguise of the masculine are not infrequent, but the case of Charley Parkhurst may fairly claim to rank as by all odds the most astonishing of them all.”

- The San Francisco Call wrote not long after his death

Orphaned at birth, Charley Parkhurst first donned male clothing to escape an orphanage in Massachusetts. In 1851, he moved to California following the opportunities that opened up with the gold rush and soon earned a reputation as being among the safest and fastest stagecoach drivers, easily handling the reins for a team of six. According to one source looking back over Parkhurst’s career “…in more than twenty years no highwayman had dared to hold up a stagecoach with Charley Parkhurst on the box, for the first two who tried it had been shot dead in their tracks.” No stranger to injury, he was nick-named “One-eyed Charley” after losing his left eye while shoeing a horse. Eventually rheumatism began taking a physical toll and the railroad expansion took more and more of the overland business. Never one to remain idle, the former stagecoach driver, then past 60 years of age, turned to lumber-jacking, raising cattle and occasionally hauling freight for neighbors. The discovery after his death that Parkhurst was assigned female at birth came as a complete surprise to everyone who knew him– especially his business partner. A memorial in Soquel Village, California marks the site where he is believed to have been the first woman to cast a ballot in an American presidential election (though no one knew it at the time) on November 3, 1868 – 52 years before the Women’s Suffrage Movement produced the 19th Amendment. He is buried in Watsonville, California.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Unknown

Gender Identity Transgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution


Commemorations & Honors

Plaque Commemorating Parkhurst Voting at Soquel, California Fire Station in 1868

Pajaro Valley Historical Association Monument at Parkhurst's Grave (1955)

Parkhurst Terrace Apartments Named for Him by the Santa Cruz County Redevelopment Agency (2007)

Autry National Center of Los Angeles Out West Exhibit (2009-2010)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell