Ruth Evans

The 1914 Tango Trial

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SOFA Series, aired May 30, 2024



Aired May 30, 2024
The 1914 Lowell Tango Trial, a presentation by Ruth Evans

About the Presentation

Very near the end of writing her book about the dance history of Lowell, Ruth Evans came across the bizarre story of Lowell’s 1914 Tango Trial, where a couple was arrested and brought up on charges for “indecent dancing.” The sensational—and hilarious—trial made it into newspapers across the country, and then totally and completely vanished from the historical record. After almost a decade of further research, and relying on dozens upon dozens of newspaper articles and other source materials, Ruth is not only an expert on the who, how, where, and why of the whole thing, but the only person who’s ever looked into it at all. And she’s happy to share the story.

About Ruth

Ruth’s life-long vocation has been that of seamstress, taking her from costume apprentice to bridal seamstress to textile marketing work to making prototype athletic shoes. Her primary avocation through those decades of handling fabric has been dance; English country, morris, sword, American contras and squares, Middle Eastern, swing, and historic and modern ballroom. Her first dance performance was at the National Folk Festival in 1973; her latest was in 2018 with her husband, Charles Worsley, at a ballroom event.

When she and Charles downsized to Lowell in 2009, it seemed only natural that they do some research into dance in the days of Lowell’s great textile mills and famed Mill Girls. The local nineteenth-century dance scene turned out to be rich, controversial, and totally overlooked by Lowell historians. It was so rich, in fact, that the research eventually became a book: Twirling Jennies: A History of Social Dance (& other mischief) In the City of Spindles 1820–1920.

While Lowell’s 1914 Tango Trial only makes a brief appearance in that book, Ruth has since researched the tale in depth. Her love of dance, fascination with history, familiarity with the textile industry that defined Lowell’s beginnings, and quirky sense of humor make her uniquely suited to tell the story.

These days Ruth lives quietly with her beloved husband and one grown son in a condo carved from what was once a textile mill. She spends her time visiting her two other children and three grandchildren, as well as dancing, writing, and undertaking various projects that strike her fancy. One of her more recent creations is an Empire-style gown designed to mimic the ocean, complete with a decidedly quirky octopus hat.

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