In the Lives of Men, by Seattle doctor Alan L. Hart, is published on May 1, 1937.

  • By Lane Morgan
  • Posted 2/18/2024
  • Essay 22896
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Dr. Alan L. Hart's (1892-1960) third novel, In the Lives of Men, is published on May 1, 1937. Like his two previous titles, Dr. Mallory (1935) and The Undaunted (1936), it portrays the life and career of a dedicated physician. Unlike its predecessors, its carefully rendered setting becomes virtually a character of its own. The port town of Fairharbor is a clear stand-in for Tacoma, where Hart had practiced in 1930-1932 as the head of radiology at Tacoma General Hospital. People and events are also recognizable. Covering the period from 1892 to 1909, it describes the Panic of 1893, the Chinese Expulsion (taken out of time sequence from 1885), the Spanish-American War, the Klondike Gold Rush, and the labor wars in the timber camps. Hart, who grew up as a girl in Oregon and lived his adult life as a man, turns a cynical eye on the personal lives and business practices of prominent families through the boom and bust cycles of a frontier town.

Earlier Books

Hart's first novel, Dr. Mallory, was published in 1935, after Hart and his wife had relocated to Seattle. Based on his own experiences, it follows a young doctor through the 1918 flu epidemic in a remote Oregon timber town. The Tacoma News Tribune took note, saying that it "has already been described by Eastern critics as a powerful book dealing with the medical profession" ("Doctor Writes …). Doctor Mallory got more attention in Spokane, where Hart had also lived and practiced in the 1920s. He spoke at a conference of western writers that April. Described as "a slight, rather dapper chap," Hart told the gathering that its publication fulfilled "an ambition of boyhood to be a doctor and write a book" (Hindley).

The next novel, published the next year, was The Undaunted. It starts out with the protagonist's arrival in the Washington seaport of Seaforth to work in an x-ray lab. Seaforth is clearly Seattle, but the book focuses more on medical and personal themes than on landscape and local events. As in Dr. Mallory, Hart was particularly hard on physicians who put personal gain ahead of patients and medical research. In 1935, Hart responded to a reader who had noted his dissatisfaction with the state of American medicine.

"The ugly things that have grown up in medicine are the result of the ugliness and falsity of society as a whole, of our American preoccupation with success and making money, of our concentration of effort on the production of things rather than their use for a fuller human life ... So long as the American people are permeated with the spirit of 'I'm going to get mine, no matter how,' just so long will that attitude filter into all the professions" (Moore).

Doctors in Tacoma

In the Lives of Men begins with Hart's protagonist, young Dr. Jim Winforth, arriving back in his hometown of Fairharbor in 1892, after nine years away studying, and partying, in New York and Europe. The gap in time gives Hart a chance to describe two versions of Tacoma.

 "The carriage rolled out into lower Pacific Avenue. Jim remembered this street as a narrow lane winding among tall fir stumps. Here he had waded in forbidden puddles and picked wild blackberries in season and somewhere down here, he recalled, a drunken logger had fallen face down in the mud one winter night and suffocated" (In the lives ..., 10-11).

That town that he left in the 1870s is booming now.

"Conrad Bain, the real estate dealer, a fat pasty-faced man, boasted how he had made a fortune between 1887 and 1890 on an original investment of five dollars in office rent ... Ramsden, the presiding genius of the Fairharbor Land Company, a subsidiary of the Northwestern Pacific, had made so much in commissions that he was about to build a church in memory of his mother and to the glory of the name Ramsden. Waterfront listings soared and he who did not buy his lot today for a thousand dollars was likely to pay two thousand next month" (In the Lives ...," 24).

As a doctor and the son of a doctor, Winforth has access to households and secrets all over town. And as a transgender man who had several times been forced to move on from jobs and towns when his own past was discovered, his creator had a sharp eye for the hypocrisies and evasions of respectable city fathers and mothers. He may have gotten pleasure from giving scandalous stories to identifiable characters from the generation that had preceded him in Tacoma. The plot includes a child born out of wedlock and switched at birth with a stillborn baby from a respectable union, drunks and opium addicts in mansions and on the skid road, a syphilitic heir to a commercial fortune, corrupt politicians and compliant newspaper editors, and a rogues' gallery of saloon owners and brothel keepers. There is little record of Tacomans' reaction to the book, although its satirical portraits of city fathers and provincial pretensions had to have raised eyebrows in town.

In Salem, Oregon, where a book written by the son of local residents was news, the reviewer predicted that "there are some paragraphs which the squeamish will find decidedly disagreeable. There are even times when those of us who are not as a rule considered squeamish are tempted to comment: "Well, I like frankness and I don't mind a certain amount of sex-talk, but now, really ..." (Jurgen, "Statesman...").

Whatever gossip accompanied the publication has faded in interest over decades. The descriptions, however, both of frontier city life and of the natural world, remain fresh, and the author's insights about the environment and resource use are prescient.

When he sent Jim on a trip across the bay (probably to the Brown's Point area) to see his grandfather's deserted homestead, Hart drew on his own treasured memories of a farm childhood in the Willamette Valley and more recent summer trips to the Olympic Peninsula. 

"And all the years he had been away, Jim remembered this dense, dimly lit forest whose floor was thick with down-timber and vine-maple and wild flowers in their season. It was too late now for spring beauties or rhododendron but Jim caught himself watching every rocky point for bright yellow stonecrop and sniffing the warm air for the subtle fragrance of thimbleberry.

"But the forest was gone. The tall firs and cedars had been sawed off at shoulder height, and among the stumps and dead brush and charred logs there grew nothing but a tangled stand of wild vetch and the tall stalks of lavender pink fireweed. Even the alders in the creek bottom were gone, replaced by a rank growth of weeds and brush through which the stream brawled in its rocky bed. And the once shady, winding wood lane was rutted and dusty and open to the blazing sun" (In the Lives ..., 35).

While negotiating terms of a health service for loggers, Jim's father, James Anthony, challenges a timber baron's assumption that logging makes him a benefactor to the region:

"Did it ever occur to you that some of us might not care to have the country 'developed,' as you call it? That we liked it better the way it was before the big boom? That it might be just as well to leave the forests alone? Don't you know that trees hold back water and prevent floods? Don't you ever wonder what we're going to do with all those hills you're logging off? The land, lots of it, isn't good for anything else and how will all the workingmen earn a living when there are no more trees to cut?" (In the Lives ..., 220).

Hart's first three novels, published in quick succession during his years in Seattle, were based in large part on the notes and journals he had kept in his earlier years in medicine. His fourth and final work of fiction came out in 1942 when he was working on anti-TB initiatives in Idaho. Dr. Finlay Sees it Through is set in Seaforth/Seattle. Reviewers praised its portrait of a dedicated doctor and noted Hart's dive into the fraught topic of cooperative medicine. Organizing had begun in Seattle toward what became the Group Health Cooperative in 1945, an innovation that was hard-fought.

"With the depression, America made its first steps towards socialized medicine. 'Dr. Finlay' is not strictly about that depression born innovation, but it is about contract medicine which has since flowered and about what may be called cooperative medicine ... It is about Seaforth which could be Seattle, about Newland, which might be Tacoma" ("Volume by Ex-Tacoman ...").

His last book was These Mysterious Rays, an explanation of x-ray technology for laypeople, published in 1943.

An Untold Story

Hart had hoped to write an autobiographical novel focused on his country childhood before the issues of adult gender complicated his life. His editor at Norton, on reading the manuscript, advised him to "return to writing about your doctors and your Northwest" and "your plea for social justice" (Close, 46). That was not the first time Hart had considered telling his own story. In his early 1930s, he wrote to ask the author Mary Roberts Rinehart for advice about publishing an account of his transition to a male identity.

"It is a grave undertaking to bare one's whole heart before the world; and it is too much to expect a man to do it without reward. I had neither money nor backing when I embarked upon my career as a man four years ago this month; I had every inch of the way to fight; I have asked no favors from anyone. I have never asked for sympathy; nor do I want it ... But if I can make something out of this book, it will relieve the financial pressure and make life much easier and pleasanter for me. So I admit that my motives are mixed; but whose are not?" (Alan Hart to Rinehart, August 3, 1921).

In lieu of telling his own story, Hart populated much of his fiction with outcasts who are stopped by prejudice and lack of support from leading authentic lives. Geoffrey Radford in In the Lives of Men is set apart by a birth defect – one arm is a stub. He is avoided by his father and bullied by his peers (Hart gives him the nickname he himself endured as a child, "the living skeleton"). Convinced he will never fit the life he was born to as the son and heir of a smelter owner, he becomes an IWW organizer and dies quixotically in a labor action. 

Sandy Farquhar, a major character in The Undaunted, is homosexual. He had been "driven from place to place, from job to job, for fifteen years because of something he could not alter any more than he could change the color of his eyes ... It did no good to live alone, to make few acquaintances and no intimates; sooner or later someone always turned up to recognize him" (253). Farquhar, eventually exhausted by persecution and isolation, plans to commit suicide but instead dies while saving a child from drowning.

Faced with an analogous situation, Alan and his wife, Edna, chose to live a public life. They were active and useful everywhere they lived, and once they moved to Connecticut in 1947, they were able to spend the rest of their lives in one town, both teaching university classes and participating in community life. When Alan died in 1962, of heart failure, Edna followed his wishes and destroyed his private papers and correspondence. It wasn't until 1976 that his history became public.


Lucille Hart (attributed), "An Idyll of a Country Childhood," The Takenah (1911), 66-68; "Dr. Hart Explains Change to Male Attire: Real Identity Discovered and Proof Held; Truth Beyond Question," Albany Daily Democrat, March 28, 1918, p. 1; Michelle Moore, "The Measure of a Man -- Dr. Alan L. Hart," website accessed December 4, 2023 (; Alan Hart to Mary Roberts Rinehart, August 3, 1921, Digital Transgender Archives website accessed January 10, 2024 (; Wilbur W. Hindley, "Western Writers Have New Novels," Spokesman-Review, April 14, 1935, p. 47; "Book Reviews," Idaho Statesman, March 29, 1936, p. 4; Caroline Jurgen, "Statesman Book Nook," (Salem) Statesman-Journal, June 27, 1937, p. 4; Caroline Jurgen, "Among the New Books," Ibid., December 26, 1937, p. 6; "Doctor Writes of Experiences," Tacoma News Tribune, March 29, 1935, p. 4; "Volume by Ex-Tacoman," Ibid., June 14, 1942, p. 5; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Group Health Cooperative, Part 1: Planting the Seeds, 1911-1945" (by Walt Crowley), (accessed January 25, 2024); Colin Close, "Manifesting Manhood: Dr. Alan Hart's Transformation and the Embodiment of Sex in Early Twentieth-Century Sexology," (master's thesis, Sonoma State University, May 2014); "Doctor Tries Test Tube Love," Idaho Statesman, March 29, 1936, p. 4; Peter Donahue, "The Novels of Alan Hart," Columbia Magazine, Summer 2006: Vol. 20, No. 2, website accessed November 17, 2023 (; Doctor Alan L Hart -- Transgender Doctor in the 1930s, Tacoma Historical Society video accessed December 6, 2023 (; Alan L. Hart, Dr. Mallory (New York: W. W. Norton: 1935); Alan L. Hart, The Undaunted (New York: W.W. Norton, 1936); Alan L. Hart, In the Lives of Men (New York: W. W. Norton, 1937); Alan L. Hart, "Dr. Finlay Sees it Through" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942); Alan L. Hart, These Mysterious Rays (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1943); Peter Boag, Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011; Colin Close, "Manifesting Manhood: Dr. Alan Hart's Transformation and the Embodiment of Masculinity (master's thesis, Sonoma State University, May 2014); Thomas M. Lauderdale and Tom Cook, "The Incredible Life and Loves of the Legendary Lucille Hart," Alternative Connection, Vol. 2, Nos. 12 and 13. September and October 1993; J. Allen Gilbert, "Homo-Sexuality and Its Treatment," Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 297-322.

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