A Woman in Men’s Clothing
Flora Quick aka Flora Mundis aka Tom King aka China Dot
by C.K. Thomas
China Dot couldn’t possibly have committed all the crimes attributed to her by overzealous news reporters of her day. Born Flora Quick in 1874, orphaned at the age of 15, and then married to a man who was after her inheritance, she soon made the decision she would survive by any means possible.
After her marriage to scoundrel Ora Mundis failed, Flora began riding horseback dressed in men’s clothing, stealing horses, and calling herself Tom King. Her true identity and gender became known when she landed in an Oklahoma City jail for horse theft. Newspapers reported her escaping jail at least twice and never being convicted for her crimes.
For a time, Flora turned tricks and even ran a brothel in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with her friend Jessie Whitewings. Reports claimed she robbed trains and banks as well, but in reality it seems she stuck to horse rustling. Sadly, she was killed by a jealous lover in the back of Sirrianl’s Italy Saloon in Clifton, Arizona, at the beginning of 1903.
The most quoted story concerning her death attributes the deed to her lover, Bill Garland. Flora and Bill quarreled while high on opium, and Bill shot her four times before shotting himself in the head. News reports of the incident described the four gunshot wounds in graphic detail, and while Flora managed to live several hours following the shooting, Bill’s suicide was instantly fatal.
It’s difficult to find the truth about Flora Quick, considering all the tales written about her notorious life. Newspapers.com search results produce conflicting reports, and while many articles and books try to unravel her history, it appears we may never know the whole truth about this frontier woman who masqueraded as a man. In the 29 years she lived, she managed to leave behind a legacy that rivals more familiar Wild West characters such as Annie Oakley and Clamity Jane, who were written about in dime novels and sensationalized in news reports of the era.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.