A file previously held in the collection of the Supreme Court of Victoria and now in Public Record Office Victoria contains records of the annulment of the marriage of Florence Cox in 1919. As the earliest known record of a person with intersex variations in Victorian history, Cox’s story – and this record – are of unique historical significance to the LGBTIQ+ history of the State.

Florence Cox (1887–1950) had a middle-class upbringing in Melbourne. In 1914 she travelled to Bengal to marry her fiancé Frank Paice and to join him in his missionary work for the Baptist church. The couple returned to Melbourne in 1918 and the following year the Supreme Court of Victoria, at Paice’s request, annulled their marriage.

The Supreme Court file reveals that Paice declared he had been unable to consummate the marriage, due to ‘a malformation frigidity or other defect of the parts of generation’ of his wife. Both Paice and Cox were subject to medical examination, which established that Cox had what is recognised today as the intersex condition complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.

The court determined that marital intercourse, as it was understood at the time, was impossible for Paice and Cox, and granted the request for an annulment. Paice remarried, fathered children and led a successful professional and civic life, serving a period as Mayor of Nunawading, in the middle- class eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Cox’s life was very different. It is unlikely that anyone in her life would have known what had prompted the end of the marriage, but gossip would certainly have focussed on her part in it. She never remarried and, although she remained connected to her family, her story was rarely discussed. Cox was admitted to Mont Park Mental Hospital in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in 1945, where she died five years later.

The Supreme Court file preserves one of the most detailed medical descriptions of a person with intersex variations from that period. It is particularly striking that following the court case, the file was closed ‘forever’. This indicates how seriously the court took the case, and its determination to protect Cox and Paice from public scrutiny. It speaks loudly to the thinking of the time on a matter that was rarely, if ever, raised in public.

In 1997, Cox’s great-nephew Ian Richardson set out to investigate the secrecy surrounding his great-aunt Florrie. Following a relentless, two-year campaign by Richardson and other descendants of Cox and Paice, the Supreme Court file was finally opened to the public. Richardson’s book, God’s Triangle, recounts his quest and brings Cox’s story out of the archives and into the light.

Quoted from "A History of LGBTIQ+ Victoria in 100 Places and Objects" by Graham Willett, Angela Bailey, Timothy W. Jones and Sarah Rood.