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The Past and Present Society

Gender's Two Bodies: Women Warriors, Female Husbands and Plebeian Life
Author(s): Fraser Easton
Source: Past & Present, No. 180 (Aug., 2003), pp. 131-174
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3600742 .
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GENDER'S TWO BODIES: WOMEN


WARRIORS,FEMALE HUSBANDS
AND PLEBEIAN LIFE*
'Tis true, the Boatswain of the Ship takingNotice of her Breasts,
seemed surprized,and said, theywerethe mostlike a Woman's he ever
saw.
TheFemaleSoldier(1750)
Tho' seeing'sbelievingas some folksagree,
Yet feeling'sthe truth,no deceittherecan be,
So some of themsay e're they'rety'dto a man,
He shallgivethemproofhe can please a Woman.
'The Female Husband: A New Song' (c.1760)

symbolsof
Disguise as a man was one of the mostpersistent
femaleexceptionalism
and sexuallicencein eighteenth-century
Britain,and indeed in the earlymodem period in general.
From Britomart
and Rosalindto Sylviaand Moll Flandersin
politeculture,and in the populargenreof the femalewarrior
women in men's
ballad, literaryexamples of self-directed
clothesabound.' In real lifethe occasionalactualor supposed
woman in disguisereachedwide culturalrecognition:
such is
the case withtheChevalierD'Eon, thediplomat,international
and expertswordsman,
who,althoughactuallya man,
intriguer
*Someoftheresearch
forthisstudywasmadepossiblebyfunding
fortravelto
in theHistory
at
Britainas partofa Killampost-doctoral
fellowship
Department
of BritishColumbiain 1990, and fromthe Social Sciencesand
theUniversity
of
Grantat theUniversity
Humanities
ResearchCouncilof Canada Institutional
and staff
ofthe
Waterlooin 1998 and 1999.I wouldliketo thankthelibrarians
ofLondonRecordOffice,
theLondonMetropolitan
Archives
andthe
Corporation
theBritish
PublicRecordOffice(London),theBodleianLibrary,
Oxford,
Library,
andCambridge
London,theBritish
University
Library
Library,
Library
Newspaper
and thestaff
oftheinter-library
loandepartments
at Princeton
andthe
University
nowmuchrevised,
wasdelivered
Partofthepresent
ofWaterloo.
article,
University
in
Association
at Queen'sUniversity,
at theCanadianHistorical
Ontario,
meeting
for
I wouldliketothankMargaret
June1991.Finally,
DoodyandDavidBromwich
on an earlier
first
encouraging
myworkinthisarea,CamieKimforhercomments
version
ofthisarticle,
andNatalieZemonDavis,BettyRizzoandJulieWheelwright
forreferences
andadvice.
1On the femalewarrior
ballad, see Dianne Dugaw, WarriorWomenand Popular
Balladry,1650-1850 (Cambridge,1989).

2003
Oxford,
Society,
? The PastandPresent

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132

PAST
ANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

wasthought
to be a womanin disguise.2
MaryWollstonecraft
ofthepraiseheapedon exceptional
wascritical
suchas
figures
from
toaddress
'Madamed'Eon'becauseitdetracted
attempts
Morerecently,
and
thestatusofwomeningeneral.3
historians
havecelebrated
womenin literature
scholars
literary
disguised
and lifeas praiseworthy
examplesofa gender-bending
spirit
of femalesocialand sexualautonomy.4
in
Historical
enquiry
in themilieux
has focusedon femalecross-dressing
particular
offashionable
suchas thetheatre
andthemasquerade,
leisure,
and in sexualcontexts
bothgay (through
analogywiththe
male
known
sodomites
as
and straight
mollies)
cross-dressing
women
themselves
to
or
meet
a lover,
(when
disguised
pursue
or in relation
Yet one ofthemostcommon
to prostitution).5
usesoffemale
sexualdisguise
ineighteenth-century
Britain
was
foroccupational
women
purposes:
plebeian
routinely
disguised
as menin orderto workas labourers,
themselves
servants,
lowerartisans,
andinlaborious
trades.
thiswork-related
Although
offemalecross-dressing
dimension
hassometimes
beennoted,
itsextent
andsignificance
forthestudyofearlymodemworkershas notbeenfullyappreciated
or explored.A closerlook
at someof thesub-groups
(as defined
by eighteenth-century
ofcross-dressing
showsthat
observers)
plebeianwomenclearly
a customary
theyformed
partof earlymodemworking-class
lifeandwerecaughtup (inwaysthatcontemporaries
carefully
withbothshifting
oflesbianidentity
notions
and
distinguished)
thepaternalistic
ofwomen'sworkandsexuality.
regulation
2Gary Kates, MonsieurD'Eon Is a Woman:A Tale ofPoliticalIntrigue
and Sexual
Masquerade(New York, 1995).
PoliticalWritings,
ed. JanetTodd (Oxford,1994), 149.
3Mary Wollstonecraft,
4In additionto Dugaw, WarriorWomenand PopularBalladry,see TerryCastle,
'MattersNot Fit To Be Mentioned: Fielding's The Female Husband', ELH, xlix
Amazons and MilitaryMaids: WomenWho Dressedas
(1982); JulieWheelwright,
Men in thePursuitofLife,Liberty,
and Happiness(London, 1989).
5 See Pat Rogers,'The BreechesPart', in Paul-GabrielBouc6 (ed.), Sexualityin
Britain(Manchester,1982); TerryCastle, Masqueradeand CivilEighteenth-Century
ization:TheCarnivalesque
in Eighteenth-Century
EnglishCultureand Fiction(Stanford,
Women:British
LesbianCulture,1668-1801
1986); Emma Donoghue,Passionsbetween
(New York, 1996), chs. 2-3; Randolph Trumbach, 'London's Sapphists: From
Three Sexes to Four Gendersin the Making of Modem Culture',in JuliaEpstein
and KristinaStraub (eds.), Body Guards: The CulturalPoliticsof GenderAmbiguity
theTheatre,and GenderStruggle
(London, 1991); JeanE. Howard,'Crossdressing,
in EarlyModem England', ShakespeareQuart.,xxxix(1988). For an overview,see
Tim Hitchcock,EnglishSexualities,
1700-1800 (Basingstoke,1997), ch. 6.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

133

In this articleI will focus on analysingtwo sub-groupsof


women workerswho passed as men in eighteenth-century
Britainagainstthe generalbackgroundof expectationssurroundinggenderand plebeian life. 'Female husbands' were
womenwho dressedas men in orderto marryotherwomen.
'Women warriors'werewomenwho dressedas men in order
to go to war.6Accordingto legalrecords,memoirs,newspaper
reports,chapbook accounts and militarydocuments,these
women routinelyimposed their male identityon others,
including,in the case of the femalehusbands,theirwives.
Theiractivitieshad radicallydifferent
practicalconsequences,
however,since womenwarriors,like the majorityof passingweregenerally
viewedas properly
subordinate
womenworkers,
and industriousindividuals,and werewell tolerated,whereas
and were
femalehusbandswereseen as loose and disorderly,
In thecontextof these
ostracizedand sometimescriminalized.7
I willarguethatan important
differences,
implicitdistinction
can be identifiedbetweentwo eighteenth-century
paradigms
of male bodily sex, one based on sexual anatomy(a sexed
body),the otheron sexualfunction(a sexualbody). The successfulimitationofthesexedbodyofa man- in cases where
a womanwentto war as a man and was viewedby othersas
physicallymasculine (see the firstepigraphabove) - was
observersto be both
understoodby most eighteenth-century
possibleand, likedisguiseitself,an acceptable(albeitindecoIn contrast,
the
rous) mode of plebeianfemaleself-fashioning.
imitationof the sexual body of a man - in cases where a
woman lived as the husband of another woman without
arousingher suspicions- was paradoxicallyviewedas either
impossible(see the second epigraphabove) or, when it did
occur,as a shockingand unjustifiable
imposture.Accordingly,
a range of documentsconsistentlyshow that whereas the
imitationofthe sexed body of a man byplebeianwomenwas
rarelycensured (on the contrary,it mightbe praised), the
imitation(or attemptedimitation)ofthesexualbodyofa man
was sureto be mocked,censuredor evencriminalized.
6Othercommonly
bridetermsinclude'counterfeit
used eighteenth-century
groom','femalesoldier'and'femalevolunteer'.
to live,
defines
7LynneFriedliusefully
'passingwomen'as those'whoattempted
as men':seeher'"PassingWomen":A StudyofGenderBoundaries
workormarry
inG. S. RousseauandRoyPorter(eds.),SexualUnderintheEighteenth
Century',
worlds
(Manchester,
1987),234.
oftheEnlightenment

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134

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

Studies of earlymoderncross-dressing,
borrowingheavily
fromliteraryand theatricalcontexts,as well as fromanthrothephenomenon
pologicaltheory,have commonlyinterpreted
of the passingwomanin termsof a carnivalesquedisguiseof
sex- thatis,as a sociallysignificant
(and occasionally
disruptive)
The conceptofinversion
mode ofsymbolicsexualinversion.8
is
a powerfulanalytictool:JulieWheelwright,
forexamcertainly
uses it to showhow femalesoldiersprovided
ple, convincingly
an 'enduringfantasy'of genderliberationfor earlymodem
women.9Buta comparative
studyoffemalehusbandsandwomen
warriorsrevealsthatmorewas at stakein theiractivitiesthan
a formof genderliberation.Since both groups of women
challengedsexualnormsby passingas men,disguisealone is a
theirdifferences.
Moreover,
misleadingbasisforunderstanding
for
in
social
elites
although
general,and forordinary
peopleat a
carnivalor masquerade,cross-dressing
may well have called
attentionto the subordinations
of everydaylife,or facilitated
or spicedup an illicitlove affair,
it did notbyitselfcast doubt
on those social relations.Of course,as Natalie Zemon Davis
and othershaveshown,plebeianmensometimesdid makeuse
of carnivalesquedisguiseto effectsocial change. When the
Walthamblacksdarkenedtheirfacesor donnedfemalegarb,
theydid so to defendcustomary
rightsto forestproduce- not
to entertain
or expressthemselves.10
But in contrast
to bothfashionableplayand politicalmasquerade,passing-women
workers
used male garbto alterdirectly
theirsocio-sexualstatus,giving
in male disguise,immediateaccess to betterwork
themselves,
and pay, to alternativeliving arrangements(for example,
femalehouseholdsin whichone woman,bypassingas a man,
had accessto otherwise
unavailablesocialand domesticrights),
and to transgressive
sexual relationships.
For passingplebeian
was
above
all
a
women,cross-dressing
way to mitigateand
redefine
the labourprocess(including,
but not only,its gender
8Wheelwright, Amazons and MilitaryMaids, 78; Dugaw, WarriorWomenand
PopularBalladry,145, 156; Trumbach,'London's Sapphists', 115. For a contrary
see David Cressy,Travesties
and Transgressions
in Tudorand StuartEngland
perspective,
(Oxford,2000), ch. 7 ('Cross-Dressingin the BirthRoom: Gender Trouble and
CulturalBoundaries').
9Wheelwright,
Amazonsand MilitaryMaids, p. xiv.
'o Natalie Zemon Davis, 'Women on Top', in Societyand Culturein EarlyModern
France (Stanford,1975); E. P. Thompson, Whigsand Hunters(Harmondsworth,
1977).

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

135

was onlyone
dimensions).Sexual inversionas such,therefore,
more
and
imbricated
social fabric
of
a
far
complex
component
liberties
made
these
women's
the
surrounding
working
possibleby
activities.
ofsocialattitudes
The remarkable
towardsfemale
divergence
husbandsand womenwarriorsis best understood,I hope to
show,in termsoftheimpositionofan evolvingset ofbothsexgenderand class normson membersof the lowerranks.At
stakeis a distinction
betweentwo formsof male prerogative:
themalesocialroleas such (linkedto themale sexedbody)and
ofthisrolein ideas of male virility
the undergirding
(themale
ofthesexedbody
sexualbody).Whereasthesuccessful
imitation
of a man - his hardiness and strength-

could be justifiedby

womenwarriors
to military
and society
authorities,
magistrates
at largeon thebasis oftheirindustry
and patriotism
as devoted
membersofa military
the
successful
imitation
service,
by some
femalehusbandsof the sexualbodyof a man- his virility
couldnotbe justified
on suchtermsandwas oftenviewedinstead
as theactionofa cheator ofan idle and disorderly
woman,or
worse. In general,passing-women
workerswere criminalized
onlywhen theyfellfoulof the law foractivitiesunrelatedto
theirdisguiseper se, suchas theftor murder,and it was witha
focus on the fraudulentobtainingof goods and moneythat
some 'counterfeit
bridegrooms'
(passingwomenwho used male
guise to marryunsuspectingwomen and abscond withtheir
earlyintheperiod.Bymidcentury,
possessions)wereprosecuted
however,the figureof the counterfeit
bridegroom
gave wayto
thatofthe 'femalehusband',a womanwho marriedand loved
and livedwithherwife.Criminalizing
femalehusbandsserved,
on the one hand,to createwhatwe can see now as a properly
sexual crime,thatof marrying
and beddinganotherwoman
a man; but, on the otherhand, it linked
whileimpersonating
of male virility
the impersonation
withplebeiandisorderliness,
in
the
of
British
absence
laws against lesbianismor
since,
femalesodomy (and when the marriageof two women was
simplynull),magistrates
prosecutedfemalehusbandsas cheats,
or
thieves
that
is, chargedthem,muchlikeprostitutes,
rogues
ofthepoor.11
undera setoflawslinkedto thesocialregulation
11On the one hand, the crimes of which female husbands were convicted
stronglysuggestthat,forthesewomen,sexual impersonationas such was viewed as
(cont.onp. 136)

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136

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 180

Female husbandswereaccused of having,and some clearly


did have,sexualrelationswiththewomentheymarried.At the
horizonofthisenquiryis thehistory
ofsocialattitudes
towards,
and representations
lesbiandesireand identity.
of,working-class
Recentscholarshipsuggeststhattherewere manycompeting
Britain,
imagesand ideas of lesbianismin eighteenth-century
and thatthe cross-dressing
lesbianwas onlyone imageamong
many.But because the femalehusbandwas partof the same
plebeianworkmilieuin whichotherpassingwomenweretolerated, her criminalization
providesa unique vantagepointon
the expectationssurroundinggender,socio-economicstatus
and sexualdesire.Despitetherapidgrowthofhistorical
studies
ofsexualminorities
overthelasttwodecades,we remainat the
not the end, ofresearchintothehistoryof sexualibeginning,
in particular.Indeed, at
tiesgenerally,
and of homosexualities
ofsexualrepresentations,
stakewithinthesocialhistory
attitudes
and behavioursis anotherhistory,the genealogyof such
notionsas 'sex' and 'liberty'.It is towardsthissecond history
thattherecovery
ofthedistinction
betweengender'stwobodies,
sexedand sexual,is meantto contribute.
I
CROSS-DRESSING

AND PLEBEIAN LIFE

Women warriorsand femalehusbands belong to the same


milieuas the passing-woman
worker.Records
labouring-class
ofpassing-women
not
common
as reports
as
workers,
although
ofsome othertypesofcross-dressing
womensuchas criminals,
confirmthatwomenroutinely
workedin a rangeof plebeian
(n. II cont.)

an unlawfuldeception:see the clause against'usingany subtilCraftto deceive and


imposeon anyofhis Majesty'sSubjects' in thevagrancyacts (forexample,17 Geo.
II, c. 5, ?2), the definitionof 'Cheats' as 'deceitfulpractices,in defraudingor
endeavouringto defraudanother of his known right,by means of some artful
device' - RichardBurn, TheJusticeofthePeace, 15thedn, 4 vols. (London, 1785),
andfraudulent
i, 329 - and even the definitionof larcenyas 'a felonious
taking,and
carrying
away ... ofthemerepersonalgoodsofanother':ibid.,iii, 56 (originalemphathemostcommonrubricunderwhichfemalehussis). On theotherhand,vagrancy,
bands werepunished,'was a catch-allcategoryforsocial undesirables,facilitating
a
see NicholasRogers,'PolicingthePoor in
policingofthepoor', includingprostitutes:
London: The VagrancyLaws and theirAdministration',
Histoire
Eighteenth-Century
sociale/SocialHistory,
xxiv(1991), 131. See also Tony Henderson,Disorderly
Women
in Eighteenth-Century
London:Prostitution
and Controlin theMetropolis,
1730-1830
(London, 1999), 76 and passim.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

137

and lowermiddling-rank
Newsoccupationsin maledisguise.12
forexample,recordpassingwomen
and
paper
periodicalreports,
workingas labourers,butchers,cooks, porters,shipwrights,
coachmen,
bricklayers,
plasterers,ploughmen,stone-cutters,
pedlars,servantsand East India Companyrecruits.13If issues
of gender impersonationare highlightedin many of these
social expectationsforplebeian
accounts,so are paternalistic
and middling-rank
individuals.Considerthefollowing
account
from1753, whichis fairlytypicalof itemsappearingin the
London press:
Some Time ago a youngWoman havingbeen a longwhileout ofPlace,
dress'd herselfin Man's Cloaths, and hired herselfas a Waiter at
12Some eighteenth-century
commentators,such as JohnCleland, thoughtthat
women passingas men was 'a Practicenot altogetheruncommon'in England: see
his translation,withcommentary,of Giovanni Bianchi,An Historicaland Physical
Dissertation
on theCase ofCatherineVizzani (London, 1751), 64. A check through
thehistoricalchronicleand deathnoticesand theirsuccessorsectionsin the Gentleman's Magazine forthe one hundredyearsfrom1731 to 1830 revealsrecordsof
different
individuals(countingD'Eon twice,as a woman in
fifty-four
cross-dressing
the 1770s and as a man in the 1810s), twentymale and thirty-four
female.Of the
femalecases, nine are crime-related,
nine are women warriors,six are femalehusbands, one each involvesresistinga press-gang,a pretendedsex change, a crime
victim,a politicalescapee and a practicaljoke, and fiveare primarily
work-related,
althoughoccupationalinformation
appearsin some ofthe otherreports.The distribution of reportsis relativelyuniform,apartfroma slightpeak around the 1770s:
thereare reportsof threepassingwomen per decade exceptforthe 1740s (four),
1770s (six), 1780s (four)and 1810s (two). A similarpatternis evidentin combined
male and femalereports,whichrun at fouror fivea decade, exceptforthe 1740s
(six) and the 1770s (twelve).Based on evidencefromDutch archives,RudolfM.
Dekker and Lotte C. van de Pol have arguedthatthereis a markeddeclinein the
incidence of femalecross-dressingin NorthernEurope after1800: see their The
Tradition
in EarlyModernEurope(London, 1989), 102-3, and
ofFemaleTransvestism
theirclaim has been repeatedby others,forexample Tim Hitchcock,'Redefining
Sex in Eighteenth-Century
England', in Kim M. Phillipsand BarryReay (eds.),
Sexualitiesin History(New York, 2002), 196. Reportsin the Gentleman's
Magazine,
however,show no such markeddecline,withthirtyindividuals(nineteenwomen)
(fifteen
women) between 1781
reportedbetween 1731 and 1780, and twenty-four
and 1830. For furtherinformationon nineteenth-century
passing women, see
Camilla Townsend, "'I am the Woman forSpirit":A WorkingWoman's Gender
Studies,xxxvi(1992-3).
Transgressionin VictorianLondon', Victorian
forthe following:a cook (27 Sept. 1735), a servant
13See the Daily Advertiser
(2 Dec. 1735), a butcher(16 June1753), a porter(15 Sept. 1756), a recruitto the
East India Company (15 Nov. 1771) and a shipwright
(1 Jan. 1772). I would like
to thankBettyRizzo forthe last fourof these referencesfromthe Daily Advertiser,
as well as forthose referencesfromthe Daily Advertiser
in nn. 14, 18, 23, 62, 103
below. The LondonChroniclerecordsanothershipwright(28-31 July1787, 99),
and a stone-cutter,farmlabourer,bricklayerand coach driver(31 Jan.-2 Feb.
recordsa pedlar (1793),
1760, 117). The 'Chronicle' sectionin theAnnualRegister
19; and a plastererand ploughman(1822), 72-4.

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138

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

St. Dunstan'sCoffee-House
inFleet-Street,
andlivedthereupwardsof
twoMonthsbeforeshewasdiscover'd,
shelayalltheTimewith
though
theotherWaiter.It seemsshehas livedin severalPlaceswithinthese
twoYearsintheCapacityofa Man Servant.14

The writer
ofthisreportis clearlyinterested
in thesuccessofthe
in partbecauseshe
woman'sdisguise:theepisodeis newsworthy
has workedfora varietyof employers
and shareda bed witha
fellowservantwithoutbeingdiscovered.But thisis onlyone
whichimplicitly
is
aspectofthereport,
acceptsthatcross-dressing
a viableand evenappropriate
wayfora poorwomanto overcome
theobstaclesto femaleemployment:
'a longwhileout ofPlace',
the account emphasizesthat this woman finallygets 'hired'
onlyby puttingon a 'Man's Cloaths'. Going intoservicewas
viewedas a lastresortforpoorwomenseekingwork
commonly
inLondon;anotherwasprostitution.15
In theopinionofSirJohn
in
the
ofpoor,illiterate
mothers
Fielding,writing 1758, daughters
'oftenbecome ProstitutesfromNecessity,even beforetheir
Passionscan have anySharein theirGuilt'.16By usingherwit
anddaringtoadoptmaledisguisewhenshefailedtosecureservice
as a woman,the femalewaiterof St Dunstan's avoided the
'Guilt'ofbecominga prostitute:
thatis,shesuccessfully
defended,
ratherthanlost,herreputation
as a virtuousplebeianwoman.
The harshrealitiesof lifeforeighteenth-century
labouring
in thelabourmarket,
women,and theirrelativemarginalization
thephenomenonofthe
are a crucialcontextforunderstanding
thatwomenmade
passingwoman.Local studieshaveestimated
as poorin
up as muchas 86 percentofthepopulationclassified
1755 (thepercentageis estimatedto be about the same in the
periodbetween1801 and 1803); ifso, womenweremorevulnerablethanmento thesettlement
lawsand otherpoverty-related
Press reportsrevealpassingwomen who seem
disabilities.17
wellawareofsuchfactsand viewtheirdisguiseas an additional
last resortto serviceand prostitution.
As one womandiscoveredin 1762 put it,whenaskedwhyshe had disguisedherself
to workat a public house, 'the chiefMotive was, thatBoys
could shiftbetterforthemselvesthan Girls'.18 Significantly,
14Daily

20 Dec. 1753.
Advertiser,
15Deborah Valenze, TheFirstIndustrialWoman(New York, 1995), 24.
16
Cited ibid.,25.
17Ibid., 15-16, 20. See also M. Dorothy George, LondonLifein theEighteenth
Century(Chicago, 1984), 174.
8 Sept. 1762.
18Daily Advertiser,

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

139

friendsand evenfellowworkerssometimessupporteda
family,
woman'sdecisionto workas a man. MaryLacy, who wentto
sea and laterbecamean apprentice
as a man,records
shipwright
in hermemoirsthatherparents,whentheylearnedofherdisOf course,a hostoflabouringand
guise,lentittheirsupport.19
serviceoccupations,and some artisanalpositions,wereopen to
women:widowsoftenranpublichouses,and DorothyGeorge
documentswomen who workedas clotheswashers,migrant
and dustcarters,
and as weavers,
farmlabourers,cinder-sifters
and shoemakers'assistants.As George
butchers,watch-makers
observes,however:'Whenwe reachthelevelofthe "labouring
poor" it can almostbe said thatthereis no worktoo heavyor
to be donebywomen,provideditis also ill-paid'.20
disagreeable
Professionaland prestigeoccupationswere exclusivelymale,
and in otherpursuits'womenreceivedonlyabout two thirds
men'swagesforthesamework'.21
As a practicalmatter,ofcourse,womenon the cusp ofsubwereas
as manyofthepoorinthiserafoundthemselves,
sistence,
for
for
criminal
as
male
to
reputablepurlikely adopt
disguise
is thatgenteelcommentators
however,
poses.22Whatis striking,
19 See the lettersto and fromher parentsin Mary [Lacy] Slade, TheHistory
ofthe
Female Shipwright
(London, 1773), 34, 36 and passim.Later on some of her coworkershelped her to keep her secret(ibid., 173). One disguisedwoman worked
for sixteenyears as a coachman, known to her husband, a servantin the same
household: OriginalWeeklyJl, 8 Aug. 1719, 1502. An employerof Sarah Geals
'had knownthatshe was not a man, but had kepther secret',as did her brother:
21 Sept. 1865, 2.
Daily Telegraph,
20George,London
172.
Lifein theEighteenth
Century,
21Roy Porter,
revisededn (HarmondsEnglishSocietyin theEighteenth
Century,
worth,1990), 86. In some cases the pay was worse: femaleservantsin husbandry
receivedless than halfthe male wage: see BridgetHill, Women,Work,and Sexual
Politicsin Eighteenth-Century
England(Montrealand Kingston,1994), 75. For evidence thatboth men and women were aware of theseinequities,see Valenze, First
IndustrialWoman,23, 45, 97, 100.
22 Of the thirty-four
cross-dressingwomen recorded in the firstone hundred
years of the Gentleman'sMagazine (leaving aside the practicaljoker, press-gang
resister,crimevictim,politicalescapee and sex changer),nine reportsinvolvecrimfemale husbands (a total of fifteen),
inal disguise and six disreputable/criminal
compared withnine women warriorsand fivepassing-womenworkers(a total of
fourteen).Recordsfromthe Gentleman's
Magazine ofwomenwho committedcrimes
in disguiseinclude: a pedlar's wifewho assistsin an assault (Mar. 1735), 162; a
woman who killsanotherwoman (June1752), 286; CatherineNairne,who escapes
froman Edinburghjail (Mar. 1766), 148; a woman chargedwithstealinga purse
(Feb. 1783), 173; Mary Davis, alias Pile, who is convictedof a theft(Apr. 1785),
(Nov. 1793), 1047.
316; and a woman who commitsa bank forgery

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PASTANDPRESENT

140

NUMBER
180

rarelyassumedthatdisguisedwomenworkershad idle or disreputablemotives- thisdespitetherealprevalenceofcriminal


ofimagesofit,suchas that
disguiseand thewidedissemination
ofthebold and dishonestMoll Flanders,who dressesas a boy
life.When'GeorgeSmith'sailedout for
as partofherthieving
colonialservicein Virginiain 1744 and was discoveredto be a
girl,forexample,a fellowpassengerwas quickto see hercase
throughtheimage,notofDefoe's heroine,but ofthemeritorious and industriouspassingwomen of newspaperand other
accounts.23 Smithtold a tale of beingorphanedat age twelve
and abandonedbythetrusteesofherfather'sestate:
and notgetting
Service,she soon spentall, and was
Beingfriendless,
forc'dto sellherEar-Rings
to buyCloaths;whichshechoseshouldbe
Boys:Thus habitedshe liv'dthreeQuartersof a Year witha Taylor
nearBath,and afterwards
in LondontwoYears,withone thatletsout
Coachesto hire,whereherwholeBusinesswas to rubHorsesHeels,
andcleanCoaches.24

Vagabondsofall ageswereofcourseknownforplausiblefabriornotMarySmithreallywas a merchant's


cations,butwhether
disinherited
daughter(liketheheroineofmanyfemalewarrior
as
she
for
claimed,herdefendershowsrealsympathy
ballads),
her difficulties,
in
an
in
environment
which
the
enforceand,
mentofdomesticfemininity
forplebeianwomenwas stillweak,
takesforgrantedthemeritofherworkin thelowlyoccupations
ofa passing-woman
worker.25
The virtuecelebratedin accounts
such as thisone, unlikethatcelebratedin the femalewarrior
ballads, is not primarily
gendered(involvingromanticloyalty
or exemplary
femininecourageand patriotism)
but social and
23Someexamples
ofthisimageofindustriousness:
a coachman
'whohadserv'd...
forabout16 Years'is described
after
herdiscovery
as having'alwaysbehavedvery
well':Original
Weekly
Ji,8 Aug.1719,1502;a femaleporter'gain'dgreatFavour
withhis[sic]Mistress
forhisAssiduity
inhisBusiness':Anon.,TheFemalePorter
of
Shoreditch
as published
in theDailyAdvertiser,
29
(London,n.d.), 16 (advertised
Oct. 1756); 'JohnOliver',in apprenticing
as a plasterer,
wasconsidered
'[s]teady,
andquiet,shegavehermastereverysatisfaction':
AnnualRegister
diligent,
(1822),
'Chronicle'section,73. Even'JamesAllen',a femalehusband,is approvedofby
as 'a sober,steady,strongand activeman' (Bell'sWeekly
18
reporters
Messenger,
who'wasalwaysextremely
Jan.1829,17), a worker
reserved,
sober,andindustrious' (MorningHerald,4 Feb. 1829, 3).
24 Gentleman's
Mag. (June1744), 336.
25 'The Merchant's

DaughterofBristol'was one ofthemostfrequently


regis-

teredfemalewarriorballads: Dugaw, WarriorWomenand PopularBalladry,44.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

141

economic.26
It is governedless bythepoles ofgenderedbehaviour (such as love and glory)than by the poles of plebeian
behaviour(suchas subordination
and disorder).27
workers
an astonishing
assertiveness,
Passing-women
displayed
and persistence
that,whileusuallypositively
autonomy,
strength
ofa particular
received,could,dependingon thecircumstances
as an expressionofeitherplecase, be seen by contemporaries
or idleness.Mary
beian virtueor plebeiancriminality,
industry
AnnArnold,whenputtingherclaimfortemporary
supportto a
of
Lord
for
was
so enthusithe
Mayor, example,
representative
of
life
as
a
seaman
that
a
friendhad
asticaboutherformer
way
to intervene
to puttherightglosson herwords.28Womensuch
as Arnoldbrokenot onlywiththeirpatriarchalsubordination
as plebut also (in varyingdegrees)withtheirsubordination
and independence,
beianservantsand labourers,sincemobility
or necessity,
were
no matterhow justified
byplebeianindustry
laws,
alwayssubject,underthe VagrancyAct and settlement
Until
to criminalregulationas expressionsof disorderliness.
domesticideals were imposed on, or adopted
middling-rank
thesturdy
century,
by,femalelabourerslaterin thenineteenth
disguisedwomanstandsas a toleratedfemaleexponentof the
26Incontrastto theplebeianfemalevirtuesofindustry
and chastity
thatI identify
as
centralin theseaccounts,Anna KirstenClarkarguesthat'womenwho tookon a masculineidentitygenerallyelicitedfascinatedadmirationfortheirassumptionof manly
virtues':see her'Womanhoodand Manhood in theTransitionfromPlebeianto Working-ClassCulture:London, 1780-1845' (RutgersUniv.Ph.D. thesis,1987), 196.
27 On romanticlove and militarygloryas poles of eighteenth-century
gendered
behaviour,see Dugaw, WarriorWomenand PopularBalladry,191 and passim.The
portrayedin MaryLacy's memoirs,which
poles ofplebeianbehaviourare strikingly
describea woman bothserviceableand disorderly:Lacy initiallyadopted male dress
to escape the controlofherparentsand of a neighbourwho employedher as a servant. Once in disguise,she struggledwiththe paternalisticsocial expectationssur- herlettershome, forexample,
roundinga properlysubordinatedaughter/servant
frameher independenceas a formof disobedience when she signs herself'Your
34.
undutiful
Daughter'(originalemphasis). Slade, HistoryoftheFemaleShipwright,
A similarmentalstruggleon thepartofa passingwoman is recordeda centurylater
in the manuscriptlettersto herfamilyof Sarah Wakemanin An Uncommon
Soldier:
The Civil WarLettersofSarah RosettaWakeman,alias PrivateLyons Wakeman,ed.
Lauren Cook Burgess (Pasadena, Md., 1994), 18, 31, 58 and passim.Compared
withWakeman,Lacy's letters,edited forpublication,strikea much strongernote
of filialdeference;even so, her chafingat paternalisticexpectations,like Wakeman's,is clear(forexample,see Lacy's unhappyexperiencein servicebeforeadopting
male garb: Slade, HistoryoftheFemaleShipwright,
5-10).
28 'The young woman who accompanied the poor girlsaid it was evidentthat
of the avocation in which she
Mary Ann Arnold,althoughshe spoke respectfully
had been engaged,was veryglad to leave it': Weekly
Dispatch,5 July1840, 319.

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142

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

Hill and PeterLinebaugh,


radicalliberty
found,byChristopher
among earlymodem workingmen.29 Recent scholarshipon
femaleoccupationssuggeststhatpoor women activelychose
jobs 'forthesakeoftheirliberty'whenevertheycould- often
forexample,the relativeautonomyof spinningto
preferring,
the subordinationof service.30Passing-womenworkerswere
motivated:morethanjusta meansto a betterjob (or
similarly
ill-gotten
gains),passingas a man offereda routeout of preor a choiceagainstthe
trouble
withparishauthorities,
existing
woman's
in a para
requirements
surrounding
apprenticeship
ish trade.Much likefactory
workneartheend of thecentury,
both a sociallytoleratedwayto get
cross-dressing
represented
a
and
industrious
subordinate)and a way to
by (as reputable
some
of
the
controlof the female
escape
aspects
paternalistic
The
act
of
as
a
man
was
thusinescapablya
poor.31
working
an
personaland ideologicalchoice,notjust economicone, for
poorwomen.
II
THE PLEBEIAN WOMAN WARRIOR

Apartfroma fewindividualslate in the seventeenth


century,
recordsclearlyshow thatBritishwomenwarriorsof
surviving
the long eighteenthcenturycome fromamong the ranksof
plebeianworkingwomen.32From a sampleof oversixtycases
29PeterLinebaugh, The LondonHanged (Cambridge, 1992); ChristopherHill,
Liberty
againsttheLaw (Harmondsworth,1996). The motivedoes recurin thenext
century:for example, Ellen Watts lefther positionas an 'out-door servant'to a
farmerto workas a man on 'a trawlling[sic]sloop' because 'she could enjoymore
freedomthanin domesticservitude':Weekly
Dispatch,25 July1841, 360.
30JohnWyattcommentedon 'the youngwomen,who at presentforthe sake of
theirlibertyetc .... choose thatway of living[i.e. spinning]ratherthan in service
[sic]': citedin Valenze, FirstIndustrialWoman,76.
31As one commentatorobserved,factoryemploymentforyoungwomen 'often
inducesthemto quit theirparents'houses, thattheymaybe more at libertyto follow theirown inclinations':cited ibid.,104.
32The Gentleman's
Journalof April1692 recordstwo well-bornwomenwarriors,
includinga case from'but two Years ago' of 'a youngLady on board the Fleet in
Man's Apparel,who show'd all the Signs of the most undauntedValour' (p. 22).
The 'young Lady' may have been Anne Chamberlyne,who on 30 June 1690
'foughtbravelyagainstthe Frenchforthe space of six hours' whileservingin male
disguise: see Daniel Lysons, The Environsof London,2nd edn, 2 vols. (London,
1810-11), ii, 69. Anotherwell-bornwoman warrior,from 1692, is recorded in
Narcissus Luttrell,A BriefHistoricalRelationofStateAffairs
1678 to
fromSeptember
April1714, 6 vols. (Oxford,1857), ii, 620.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

143

drawn froma varietyof non-literary


sources in the period
between 1660 and 1832 (plus additionalcases fromoutside
thatperiod),a pictureemergesofthewomanwarrioras a bold,
lower-classwoman on the make: like otherpassing-women
enteredmilitary
womenwarriors
serviceforemployment
workers,
often
as
men
in
(indeed,they
plebeianoccupationseither
passed
beforeor aftertheiradventuresat war), to escape patriarchal
social relations,and to pursuerelationships
of variousdegrees
ofintimacy
withotherwomen.33
Literary
imagesfromtheperiod
a poorguideto therankoftheseindividuals:both
are therefore
politeand populargenresusuallypresentthewomanwarrioras
and ascribe
thedaughterofa gentlemanor ofa richmerchant,
heroicand romanticmotivesto her.Instead,in commonwith
plebeian men, enlistingas a soldieror a sailor providedan
recourseforpoorwomenwhoweredesperateto work
important
or to escape such obligationsas an unhappymarriageor a
restricted
JaneMeace enlisted'she
villagelife.Whena destitute
wantedthe whole bountymoneyin hand', but the recruiters
becauseshelookedso impoverished.34
allowedheronlya shilling
welltolweregenerally
Britain'swomenwarriors
Significantly,
The low-bornHannah
eratedand evencelebratedifdiscovered.
Snell,forexample,receiveda pensionforhermilitary
exploits
and declaredin hermemoirsthatshe intendedto continueto
liveand workin male garb,whichshe did, initially
dressingas
a man fora stage routine,and subsequentlyas a wandering
was,and was seen to be (outsideof
pedlar.35Female soldiering
in theplebeianworldofwork.
situated
fantasies),
literary
firmly
33 Cases have been gatheredfromthe followingsources: pension documentsin
the Public Record Office;printededitionsof period diaries,journals and correspondence; newspaperand periodicalreports;sessions rolls and otherlegal manuscripts;printedcrimereports;and memoirswrittenor dictatedby womenwarriors.
Records have been located throughmy own research,referencesin miscellaneous
secondarymaterials(for example, headnotes in ballad collections) and existing
scholarshipon womenwarriors.
Chron.,1-3 Dec. 1762, 1. In theirstudyofDutch
34Lloyd'sEveningPostandBritish
passingwomen,Dekkerand van de Pol recordexamplesofwomenwho wereadvised
in
to enlistin men's disguise to escape poverty:TraditionofFemale Transvestism
EarlyModernEurope,32-3.
35Anon., The Female Soldier(London, 1750), 176, 179; for Snell's stage per13 July1750; James
formancein herregimentals,
see, forexample,Daily Advertiser,
Woodforde encounteredSnell peddling buttons and otherwares, apparentlyin
male garb, in May 1778: see The Diary of a CountryParson: The Reverend
James
1758-1781, ed. JohnBeresford,5 vols. (London, 1924-31), i, 224-5.
Woodforde,
As a veteran,Snell's peddlingwas exemptfromthe penaltiesof the VagrancyAct:
see 17 Geo. II, c. 5, ?3.

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144

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 180

The pensiondocumentsof ChristianDavies, Hannah Snell


and Mary Lacy, preservedin the War Officeand Admiralty
the plebeianoriginsand workmilieuof
records,substantiate
the typicalfemalesoldier.ChristianDavies, forexample,was
admittedas an outpensionerof Chelsea Hospital in 1717.36
Davies was granteda pensionof 'Five Pence a Day forher
future
Supportand Maintenance'becauseofthe'diversWounds
she receiv'din follg.the said Regt.' during'the late Warrin
Flanders'while'disguis'din thehabitofa man'.37She received
herrewardunderthepaternalistic
rubricoffaithful
servicethat
was meantto governrelationships
betweenmastersand menin
Britain,a principlethatis explicitin a 1720
eighteenth-century
letterwritten
on herbehalf,whichorderedherallowanceto be
raisedto a shillinga day:'notwithstanding
herbeinga Woman',
Davies was rewardedforhaving'serv'dmanyyearsveryfaithfullyin the late Wars in Flandersin thehabitof a Man'.38At
theotherend ofthe century,
MaryLacy,who,afterservingin
thenavy,workedas a shipwright,
herhealth& consti'finding
tutionimpairedby so laboriousan Employment',applied in
1772 to the Admiralty
for'some Allowanceforher Support
the
remainder
of
her life';when her storyof military
during
serviceand industrious
labour'in Men's Cloaths'was confirmed
'by the Commissionerof the Yard at Portsmouth',she was
granted'a Pension equal to that grantedto Superannuated
Shipwrights'.39
The plebeianoriginsand workmilieuof Hannah Snell are
thebestdocumented.
By 1750,ChelseaHospitalrecordsincluded
theoccupationsofinvalidsoldiersor theirfathers.
Of thefiftyninemenand one womanup foradmissionas outpensioners
on
36 Entryfor'ChristianWelsh', in 'Chelsea Hospital AdmissionBook' for19 Nov.
1717: NationalArchives,London, PublicRecordOffice(hereafter
PRO), WO 116/1.
Davies servedunderthissurname,whichalso appearsin War Officedocumentsas
'Walsh' and 'Welch'.
37 Letter fromthe Secretaryat War to the Commissionersof Chelsea Hospital,
19 July1717: PRO, WO 4/20,fo. 182. This letteris referred
to in Davies's 'Chelsea
Hospital AdmissionBook' entryfor19 Nov. 1717: PRO, WO 116/1.
38Letterfromthe Secretaryat War to the Commissionersof Chelsea Hospital,
7 July1720: PRO, WO 4/23,fo. 17. Evidence thatthisrequestwas acted upon can
be foundin 'Chelsea Hospital Board Minutes' for 11 July1720 (PRO, WO 250/
470, fo. 53) and 'Chelsea Hospital Journal'for11 July1720 (PRO, WO 250/459,
fo. 64).
39Entry in the 'AdmiraltyMinute Book' for 28 Jan. 1772: PRO, ADM 3/79,
fos. 78-9.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

145

thedaythatSnellwas examined,themostcommonoccupational
was 'labourer'(twenty-five
designation
men),followedby'husbandman'(five)and 'smith'(five,one ofwhomwas also a 'farthen,forthe redactorof theFemale
rier').40It is quite fitting,
Soldierto referto Snell's'low Extraction'and to compareherto
theservant-girl
heroineofSamuelRichardson's
Pamela:Pamela's
storywas, afterall, an exampleof a clearlyplebeianheroism.41
Whatthepensiongrantsreflect
aboveall is thepresumeddestitutionofthepetitioning
women,a situationdue notonlyto the
impact of physicalinjurieson theirabilityto continue in
conditionsofplebeian
productivework,but to theunforgiving
subsistence:in 1785, thirty-five
yearsafterherreturnfromwar,
Snellrequested'an additionto herPensionas she is now quite
and an increaseofsevenpencea daywas authorized'in
infirm',
stateofHealth'.42
Compassionto herinfirm
reflected
thethemesofplebeian
Newspaperreportsgenerally
and materialsuccessin theircoverageofwomen
industriousness
warriors,and carefullynoted the economicmotivationsand
consequencesof theiradventures.In 1748, forexample,the
GeneralAdvertiser
reportedthatone 'JohnDavidson' was discoveredto be a woman:'She has belongedto thePrinceEdward
upwardsof 11 Months;duringwhichTime, she has behaved
withgreatCourage'; hercouragewas significant,
however,for
enablingher professionaland materialsuccess: after'three
Years in the Privateer-Service...

she was so successful,as to

be nowentituled
[sic]to 1501.Prize-Money'.43
Newspaperreports
are governedby
of MaryLacy, whichstressherworkhistory,
40
'ExaminationofInvalidSoldiers... on Wednesdaythe 21st. ofNov. 1750', in
'Chelsea Hospital AdmissionBook': PRO, WO 116/4,fos. 92-3. There were two
of each of the following:'baker', 'barber', 'carpenter','dyer' (including Snell's
father),'taylor'and 'weaver'. All the restof the recordedoccupationsinvolveda
single applicantand the majorityof these were labouringjobs, including'buckle
maker', 'butcher', 'cordwainer','gunsmith','mason', 'servant' and 'slater'. The
male applicantsclearlysuggestmiddlingrank
occupationsof onlysix of fifty-nine
or commercialindependence:an 'apothecary',a 'clothier'sson', a 'farmer',an
'officer'sson', a 'shoemaker' and a 'tabacconist'; and there are no gentlemen,
exceptperhapsforthe officer'sson.
41 Anon., Female Soldier,165, 168. When hospitalizedin 1791, Snell was still
rememberedas a plebeian individual,'the D'Eon of an humblerprovince'(newspaper clippingdated 14 Sept. 1791, in 'BiographicalAdversaria.Sna-Z.': British
Library,Add. MS 5723, fo. 1).
42'Chelsea Hospital Board Minutes' for 9 June 1785: PRO, WO 250/477;
'Chelsea HospitalJournal'for9 June1785: PRO, WO 250/463.
43GeneralAdvertiser,
17 May 1748.

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146

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

similarassumptions:originally'a Servanton board several


in PortShipsofWar', Lacy worked'a regularApprenticeship
in thesame
smouthYard' and 'a Year and Half as Shipwright
Dock-Yard' beforebeing 'discoveredto be a Woman'.44In
1782, whena womannamed Coles died, it was reportedthat
she had 'servedon board severalmen of war as a sailor',and
only 'resumedthe femalecharacter'when she came into an
We have seen how Snell continuedto workin
inheritance.45
in a
malegarb,and Lacy too wenton, aftershewas discovered,
new career,operatingas an independentbuilder (albeit in
femaledress).46A similarfocuson socialand materialfreedom
is evidentin the memoirsof ChristianDavies. Published
shortlyaftershe died in 1739, Davies's narrativedevotes
roughlyequal attentionto her activitiesas a soldier(in male
garb) and a sutler(in femaledress),and celebrateshervitality
as a self-interested,
graspingand artfulindividual.47
Women warriors,in short,were commonlypresentedin
pursuitoftheplebeiangoals of materialand social well-being,
notas disinterested
valouror of
exemplarsofpatricianmilitary
subordinates,
patrioticspirit.Ratherthan deferential
military
theyare out forthe main chance,and are bravein a rough,
street-wise
fashion.This self-assertion
is evidentin the brief
accountofa femalemarinenamedHannahWhitney
in 1761:
Leeds,Oct 20. A fewdaysago a youngwoman,about20, dressedin
man'scloaths,was impressed
at Plymouth,
and sentto capt.Tobyin
thistown.On herarrival,
shewas committed
to prison;butnotliking
shediscovered
hersex,andwasdischarged.
She givesthe
confinement,
accountofherself;
thathernameis HannahWhitney;
thatshe
following
was bornin Ireland,had been a marineon boarddifferent
shipsfor
offiveyears,andwouldnothavediscovered
hersex,ifshehad
upwards
beenallowedherliberty.48

Whitneyservedformanyyears,but when she foundherself


'committed
to prison'as an impressedrecruit,
she
disagreeably
revealedherself.Like JaneMeace, Whitneyis represented
as
44Daily Advertiser,
1 Jan. 1772.

45Gentleman's
Mag. (Sept. 1782), 454.
46PeterGuillery,'The FurtherAdventuresofMaryLacy: "Seaman", Shipwright,
Builder',HistoryWorkshop
Ji,xlix (2000).
47Anon., The Life and Adventures
ofMrs. ChristianDavies, theBritishAmazon,
CalledMotherRoss,2nd edn, 2 vols. and appendix (London, 1741). See
Commonly
also Fraser Easton, 'Plebeianizingthe Female Soldier: Radical Libertyand the
Narrativeof ChristianDavies', forthcoming
in Eighteenth-Century
Life.
48Annual Register
(1761), 'Chronicle' section,170.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

147

pursuingmaterialand economic,as wellas social,freedom;the


personal autonomyand occupationalbenefitsthese women
soughtby meansof sexualdisguisego hand in hand. Whitney
herselfappearsto have come and gone frommilitary
serviceas
As
her
she liked. withpassing-women
workers, 'liberty'was a
keyconsideration.
ofthewomanwarrior
thestereotype
as a devoted
Occasionally
wifeor lover,derivedperhapsfromthe ballad tradition,
was
adopted in newspaperreportsor by the discoveredwoman
herself.This stereotypeallowed plebeian passingwomen to
by others,within
representthemselves,or to be represented
codes of femininedevotionand deferacceptablepaternalistic
firstaccountof Snell on 25 June
ence. The Daily Advertiser's
1750 providesa good example of how the ballad topos of
romanticfidelity
could be used bya newspaper:
It seems her Sweetheartbeing impressedinto the Marine Service,she
put on Men's Cloaths, and entered in the same Regiment,went to
the East-Indiesin the same Ship withhim, and was his Mesmate [sic]
whilehe lived (he dyingin theVoyage) and was as Servantto one ofthe
Lieutenants.49

romantic
heroine
bothas a self-motivated
Here Snellis presented
Snellherself
undermaleprotection.
and as a womanseemingly
in the
(or herredactor)put theemphasissomewhatdifferently
FemaleSoldier,assertingthatshe was desertedby herhusband
and thatsheenlistedas a soldierin orderto bring
whilepregnant
himto accountonlyafterthedeathoftheirchild.50
Intriguingly,
on 28 June,threedaysafteritsfirstreport,theDailyAdvertiser
romantic
itselfchangedtackin itscoverageofSnell,jettisoning
of
her
newsworthiness:
a
different
for
rather
understanding
myth
What is remarkablein thisHeroine,is, thatat theBattleof Pondicherry
she receivedtwelveWounds, six in her RightLeg, fivein her Left,and
the otherin her Groin, fromthe last of which she extractedthe Ball,
and herselfperformedthe Cure, in order to preventher Sex being
discovered.
a loverorhusband:whenAnnHolt's
49Somewomenmayhavereallyfollowed

disguise'was discoveredby theyoungman herfavourite','the commandingofficer,


orderedthemto be married':LondonChron.,21-23 July1763, 79. Dekkerand van
inEarly
de Pol providesome Dutch examplesin theirTradition
ofFemaleTransvestism

27-30. SuzanneJ.Starkcastsdoubton thismotivein theBritish


Europe,
Modern
since'a womancouldusuallygo to sea withherloverin her
context,
however,
own right':see her Female Tars: WomenAboardShip in theAge ofSail (Annapolis,
1996), 101.
50Anon., FemaleSoldier,18-20.

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148

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 180

In thissecondreportit is Snell'sextraordinary
service,notlove,
and
thatis deemed'remarkable',
as well as her determination
in
her
Snell's
Chelsea
Hospiphysicalcourage sustaining disguise.
tal outpension
verifies
thisdedicationbyrecording
thatshe
entry
inthethigh& bothLeggs'.51
wasindeed'woundedatPondicherry
Of course,would-bewomenwarriors
did notalwayssucceed
in theirdisguise:manywerediscoveredat therecruitment
stage.
In 1761 a serjeant'exercising
someofthesoldierson boardone
of the transports
at Portsmouth'suspectedthat'one of them,
who wentby thename of Paul Daniel', was a woman,and on
she confessed.52We shouldnotassume,howbeingconfronted
womenwarriors
was a simplematter
ofseeing
ever,thatdetecting
throughtheircostume.These womenwereable to pass as they
did in partbecause clothesservedto guaranteegender,rank
and otheraspects of eighteenth-century
social status.53The
of
was
short
men and recruiters
indeed,
military,
chronically
werenot over-niceabout the look of a volunteer;therewere,
fewphysicalexaminations,
moreover,
and, withhalfthepopulationyoungerthansixteen,therewerea lot ofbeardlessboys
in the services.54
Nor was the sexedbodyof a womanwarrior
evenifshe lostor removedpartofherdisalwaysself-evident,
Christian
Davies
hid herbreastsin a quiltedwaistcoat,
guise.
used a devicethatallowedherto urinatelikea man,and was
physicallymasculinizedby war and hard labour.55Hannah
Snell reportedbeing floggedtwice,withoutdetection,while
werenot
strippedto thewaist.56In anyevent,womenwarriors
51 'Chelsea Hospital AdmissionBook': PRO, WO 116/4,fo. 93. This entryis
misquotedas 'in the thighofbothleggs'in Stark,FemaleTars, 107, 188 n. 42.
52Annual
(1761), 'Chronicle' section,144.
Register
Clothes(New York, 1978), 346.
53Anne Hollander,Seeingthrough
54 Friedli,'"Passing Women"', 250; Stark,Female Tars,88-9.
55In her narrative,Davies claims that her breasts 'were not large enough to
betraymySex': Anon.,Lifeand Adventures
Amazon,i, 20, but later
of... theBritish
in lifetheyevokedcomment- in her pensionentryshe is describedas 'a fattjolly
breast[ed] woman' (entryfor 'ChristianWelsh', in 'Chelsea Hospital Admission
Book' for19 Nov. 1717: PRO, WO 116/1,wheretheword 'breast'is writtenabove
the word 'woman'). For her customizedwaistcoatand 'UrinaryInstrument',see
Anon., Life and Adventures
of ... theBritishAmazon, i, 20, and appendix ('The
Book Sellerto the Reader'), 2.
56The firsttime 'her Breastswere but verysmall' (Anon., FemaleSoldier,141);
the second time,'the Boatswainof the Ship takingNotice of her Breasts,seemed
surprized,and said,theywerethemostlikea Woman'she eversaw; but as no Person
on board everhad the least Suspicion of her Sex, the whole dropped withoutany
farther
Notice beingtaken':ibid.,142. These claimswererelayedwithoutcomment
by the Gentleman's
Magazine (July1750), 292.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

149

eitherforsimplypassingas a man or for


usuallycriminalized
the
sexed
authorities
imitating
bodyofa man:rather,
prosecuted
themforunrelatedcrimes,suchas fraudand murder.57In conand industrious
servicethat
trast,thequalitiesofmanlystrength
in
wentalongwithmilitary
disguiseweresingledout forreward
thepensiongrants.
Based on a studyof 119 Dutch womenwho passed as men,
RudolfDekkerand Lotte van de Pol have shownthatwomen
in effect,a
goingto war in earlymodem Europe constituted,
The evidencethatI havemarshalled
here
recognized
tradition.58
a similarconclusionforBritain.Sinceoccupational
roles
supports
werehighlygendered,as was themarketforlabourmoregenerdid challengegenderexpectations,
certainly
ally,womenwarriors
male prerogatives
and patriarchal
rule.But it mustbe stressed
not as womenin
thattheydid so as plebeianwomenworkers,
the abstract;and it was onlyas longas theywereseen to fulfil
was well
thenormsofplebeianservicethattheirwarriorliberty
toleratedand wellrewarded.
III
THE PLEBEIAN FEMALE HUSBAND

In contrastto celebratedwomen warriorssuch as Hannah


Snell, or even meritoriouspassing-womenworkers,passing
theunacceptable
womenwhomarriedotherwomenrepresented
faceofplebeianfemalesexualdisguisein theeighteenth
century,
57There are exceptions,of course - on 11 Jan. 1703/4, 'Eliz Morris ali[as]
White' was stillat 'hard Labour' fromthe previousOctober,havingbeen committed 'as an Idle Loose WandringVagrant'forhaving'Drest in Man's Aparilland
Listed him Self as a Soulder in LiettTennantGenrall Steward'sRegimt':London
'A Kallenderof... theHouse of Correction',
MetropolitanArchives,MJ/SR/2023,
City and WestminsterSessions Roll forJanuary1703/4. See also LondonChron.,
5-7 Feb. 1760, 134 (BettyBlanford);CorporationofLondon Record Office,MJR/
M 60, 'Mansion House JusticeRoom Minute Books, 1784-1821', entryfor 30
June1790 (Ann Lewis). More commonly,however,currentor formerwomenwarriorswho came up beforethe courtsdid so forcrimesunrelatedto theirdisguise,
like a woman who enlistedin 1696 and, having'cheated the Officer,was committed to Bridewel',or the self-confessedmurdererof 1765 who had 'been in the
PostMan, 21-23 Jan. 1696, 2;
marineserviceas a drummer,&c.': see, respectively,
and Gentleman's
Mag. (Apr. 1765), 196.
in Early Modem
58Dekker and van de Pol, Traditionof Female Transvestism
women (of the 119) forwhom occupaEurope,1-2 and passim.Of the ninety-three
were - or had at one time been - sailors or
tions are recorded, 'eighty-three
soldiers':ibid.,9.

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150

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

thatofa
a facetransformed
overthecourseoftheperiodfrom
to a lesbian'female
'counterfeit
confidence-artist
bridegroom'
ostracized
andeven
husband'.Becausethesewomenwereoften
as men,a careful
fortheiractionswhiledisguised
criminalized
forunderstanding
is essential
examination
of theirtreatment
and the
boththe limitsof tolerated
plebeiancross-dressing
in eighteenth-century
ofideasoflesbiansexuality
development
Britain.
Like womenwhopassedas mento entermilitary
service,
fromplebeian
thosewhomarried
otherwomencamemostly
ranks:'JohnHilliard',forexample,
workedas a 'Labourer'in
'theBricklayers
Trade'forsixyearsbefore
shemarried
a tripemaidin 1699,whileattheotherendoftheperiod'James
Allen'
in
wasa sawyer
andgeneral
fora seriesofshipbuilders
labourer
a career
over
Unlike
women
warriors,
years.59
lasting twenty-one
whowereviewedas able to maintain
theirdisguise
however,
oflifeaboardship,orwhenhospitaldespitethecloseconfines
izedorhalf-undressed,
assumethatsexualrelations
pressreports
betweenpassingwomenand theirunknowing
femalelovers
mustnecessarily
endangertheirdisguise.Thus an 'English
Heroin'oftheFrenchcampaigns
in Piedmont
wasreported
to
havebeenunmasked
withanotherofherSex'.60
by 'playing
womenwhowentto waras soldiersandsailors
Paradoxically,
oftensoughtout intimate
withotherwomen:
relationships
has
other
motives
indeed,as Julie
observed,
Wheelwright
setting
womancouldhelpto solidify
another
a passing
aside,courting
Andwomenwarriors
sometimes
woman'smalesocialidentity.61
59Anon., The Uufortunate
[sic] Maid Cheated(London, 1699), 1, 4; Anon., An
Authentic
Narrativeof theExtraordinary
CareerofJamesAllen,theFemaleHusband
(London, 1829), 31-2 and passim. Other occupations held by femalehusbands
include stone-cutter,
post-chaisedriver,farmer'sservantand bricklayer'slabourer
(LondonChron.,31 Jan.-2 Feb. 1760, 117), painterand shoemaker(ibid.,22-25
Mar. 1760, 291), and husbandman(ibid.,16-18 Feb. 1764, 161). For an exception,
see the case of the genteelAmyPoulterin PatriciaCrawfordand Sara Mendelson,
'Sexual Identitiesin Early Modem England: The Marriage of Two Women in
vii (1995).
1680', Genderand History,
60 Gentleman's
Jl (Apr. 1692), 22, 23.
61Wheelwright,
Amazonsand MilitaryMaids, 56. An account of 'JohnOliver',a
passing-womanplasterer,findsit plausible that 'she courteda youngwoman' in
order 'to preventsuspicion and ensure concealment': Annual Register(1822),
'Chronicle' section,73. Oliver was justifiedin believingthis - in the eyes of a
Birminghamcourt,a passingwoman's 'wifelivingpeaceablywithher all her days,
withoutone complaintof a breachofthe marriagecovenant,evincedtherewas no
defect' in her sex as a man: William Hutton, Courtsof Requests(Birmingham,
1787), 428.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

151

in
did take a wife.In 1759 a soldierundermedicaltreatment
three
'She
has
been
to
be
a
woman:
discovered
was
Edinburgh
Years in theService,withoutthesmallestSuspicionofherSex;
thattho'shelatelymarried
and managedMattersso dexterously,
a Wife,shehad theAddressto keepherStorystilla Secretfrom
As thisreportsuggests,the actualbehaviour
the Regiment'.62
ofmostplebeianpassingwomendid notfallintoneatdivisions
On the
ofhusbandversuswarriororworkerversusbridegroom.
thesecategories
formed
contrary,
partofthechanging
regulation,
of acceptableversusunacceptable
as well as representation,
behaviouramongplebeianpassing-women
and as such
workers,
were
on
the
more
fluid
realities
of
they
passingwomen's
imposed
lives.
Beforeabout 1746, and sometimesin connectionwiththe
use ofthephrase'counterfeit
accountsofpassing
bridegroom',
women who marriedother women generallydisplay three
assumptions:that these women were cleverplebeian rogues
who marriedin orderto commita monetaryor othernonsexualfraudat theexpenseofthewomentheyduped;thattheir
wiveswereunawareoftherealsex oftheirwould-behusbands
beforemarriage;and thatthetruthof a falsebridegroom's
sex
was guaranteed
to be revealedinthemarriage
bed.63The pattern
is evidentin a reportfrom1694 byAnthony&'Wood:
Last Saturday. . . appearedat the King's Bench in Westminster
hall a youngwomanin man's apparel,or thatpersonateda man,
who was foundguiltyof marrying
a youngmaid,whoseportionhe
[sic] had obtained,and was verynigh of being contractedto a
second wife.Divers of her love letterswereread in court,which
occasion'd much laughter.Upon the whole she was orderedto
order
Bridewellto be wellwhiptand keptto hardlabourtillfurther
ofthecourt.64

Implicitin Wood's accountis theassumptionthattheplebeian


passingwoman marriedin orderto perpetuatean economic
fraud,and thatsheneither
had,norcouldhave,a sexualinterest
in hervictim(otherwise
herletterswouldhavebeen morethan
62Daily Advertiser,
9 June1759.
63These generalizationsare based on the recordsof overfortycounterfeit
bridegroomsand femalehusbandsin the periodbetween1660 and 1832 (withadditional
cases fromoutside thatperiod), gatheredfromthe same rangeof sources as those
listedforwomenwarriors:see n. 33 above.
a Wood,ed. LlewelynPowys (1932; Oxford,
64 The Life and TimesofAnthony
1961), 349-50.

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152

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

On 5
simplyamusing).Trialrecordsrevealsimilarassumptions.
April1720,forexample,'Sarahali[as]JohnKetson'was charged
'by ChristianHutchinson& Ann HutchinsonherDaughter&
on herownconfession
forbeinga loose person& pretending
to
be a man courtingthe said Ann Hutchinsonby the name of
JohnKetsonwithan intentto marrydefraud& cheather'.65In
whosemale disguisewas
sharpcontrastwithwomenwarriors,
seen as a means of worthyindustry,
before1746 womenwho
marriedotherwomenwereviewedprimarily
as plebeiantricksterswhoadoptedmaledisguisein orderto stealanother
woman's
property.
To commentators
such as Wood thecounterfeit
bridegroom
was an inherently
comicfigure.Wood's stancemaywellreflect
such as those
generalattitudessurrounding
plebeiansexuality,
As Hitchcockpointsout, for
Tim Hitchcockhas described.66
(c.1700)
example,a broadsidesuchas TheCounterfeit
Bridegroom
takesa comic view of all the actorsin the femalemarriageit
ourattention
as muchtowardsthehubrisof
recounts,directing
thewould-bebrideand hervauntingmother(foroffering
'as a
freeGifton theveryWeddingday 200 1'), as towards'the she
was
Bridegroom'.67The imageof the counterfeit
bridegroom
morethanjust a plebeiancomictype,however;it was crystallized in the circulationof ideas and topoi betweenpopular
comic ballads and broadsheets,on the one hand, and press
reports,courtcases and stagecomedies,on theother.Perhaps
the firstuse of the phraseis in The Counterfeit
or,
Bridegroom:
The DefeatedWidow,a stagecomedypublishedin 1677; here
the wittyheroinedisguisesherselfas a man in orderto gull a
her lustily',
widow;her schemeis to marrythe widow,'ruffle
65'A true Kalendar of.. . New
prison', Sessions Roll forApr. 1720: London
MetropolitanArchives,MJ/SR/2344.Ketson was held untilat least October; see
the entrieson 'Sara al[ia]s JohosKistin' in the 'Sessions Book' for 1720: MJ-WJ/
SBB/782,fos. 31, 87-8.
66Hitchcock,EnglishSexualities,10-12.
67Ibid., 17. The quotationsare fromThe
Counterfeit
Bridegroom
(c.1700). Such
comic views of plebeian sexualitywere also sometimesmanifestedin newspaper
reports,at least before1746. Thus the exposureof a 'Man Cook', who had been
marriedto a housekeeperfor sixteenyears, is humorouslyrelated in the Daily
Advertiser
(27 Sept. 1735): 'Some Differencehappeningbetweenthem,the Housekeeperdeclar'd the Cook was no Man, but a Woman, and had Reasons to believe
thathersaid pretendedHusband was withChild; whichwe hearupon Examination
prov'd so. We are likewiseinform'd,thatthe House-keeperis since marry'dto a
youngLad ofEighteen'.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

153

and arrangeforherbrotherto be caughtin themarriagebed.68


A variationofthemotifappearsin WilliamTaverner'sTheArtfulHusband(1716): in thisinstancea widowcomplains,after
Sir Modish Pert (reallythe heroine,Belinda), that
marrying
'he's no Man' but 'a Cypher,an abominableCounterfeit'
in
bed.69 In theseplays a well-bornwoman passes as a man to
redressan injusticecommittedagainsther or herfamily;only
does thephraseappearin somecomicballadsand
subsequently
broadsideaccountsoffalseplebeianbridegrooms.70As we might
the idea of the plebeiancounterfeit
expect,once crystallized,
had a long currency,
and pressreportssometimes
bridegroom
it
to
even
lesbian
femalehusbands,aftermid
adapted
present
as
mere
cheats
or
thieves.71
century,
In 1746 a significant
challengeto the assumptionsof the
motif
counterfeit-bridegroom appearedwiththewidelycovered
case of MaryHamilton.Provincialreportsof Hamilton'strial
werepickedup in theLondon media,and thedetailsweresensational:attrialHamilton's
wife,MaryPrice,madetheremarkable
claimthatshe had been sexuallydeceivedforseveralweeksafter
68Anon., TheCounterfeit
Bridegroom:
or,TheDefeatedWidow(London, 1677), 28.
The well-bornAmy Poulterused a comic rubricin 1682 as a legal defenceof her
marriageto Arabella Hunt: she testifiedthatshe marriedHunt 'not seriouslybut
rashlyand undulyand in a frolicjocular or facetiousmanner' (cited in Crawford
and Mendelson, 'Sexual Identitiesin EarlyModern England', 373). Or, as a ballad
thatmade me thusthe antickplay': 'Cheat upon
bridegroomputs it, ' 'twas Jollity!
Cheat' (1683-4), in TheRoxburghe
Ballads, viii,ed. J. WoodfallEbsworth(Ballad
Soc., Hertford,1896), pt 2, 559. If a magistratecould be convincedthata woman's
disorderlyuse of disguisewas no morethana 'frolic',thenan individualmightwell
avoid punishment;when a group of women pretendingto be a press-gangcreated
considerablehavoc one evening,'the pretendedlieutenantwas takeninto custody,
and carriedbeforethe sittingalderman,who, on her declaringthatnothingmore
than a frolicwas intended,dismissedher, with a severe reprimand':Gentleman's
Mag. (May 1773), 250. For a complaintabout such leniency,see [Cleland],Case of
and early
Catherine
Vizzani,65. For thepracticeofchurchcourtsin thelate sixteenth
seventeenth
whichtooka muchdimmerviewof suchfrolicsifchurchpropcenturies,
113.
ertieswereinvolved,see Cressy,Travesties
and Transgressions,
69WilliamTaverner,TheArtful
Husband,2nd edn (London, [1716]), 57, 58. See
Marston StevensBalch, ThomasMiddleton's'No Wit,No Help likea Woman's'and
'The Counterfeit
(1677) and Further
Adaptations(Salzburg,1980).
Bridegroom'
70For example,'Comical News fromBloomsbury.The Female Captain: or,The
Counterfit[sic] Bridegroom' (c.1690). In this ballad, unusually for an account
before 1746, the false bridegroom,althoughostensiblyonly in the hunt for her
duped partner'smoneyand 'takenupfora Cheat',uses 'a Sheep's gut /b'ow'd up
very stiff'to sustain her deception: The PepysBallads, ed. W. G. Day, 5 vols.
(Cambridge,1987), v, 424 (originalemphasis).
71 See Gendtleman's
Mag. (June1773), 298; ibid.(July1777), 348. See also [Cleland],
Case ofCatherineVizzani,59.

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154

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 180

that'the said pretended


theirwedding,and testified
explicitly
Charles Hamilton . . . entered her Body several times, which

thatthesaid Hamiltonwas
made thisExamint.believe,at first,
a real Man'.72 Press accounts,whichdutifully
reportedthat
and
the
were
'bedded
and
lived
as
man
wife',exaggerated
they
the
several
of
their
sexual
discovery
period
activity,putting
the success of
monthsinto theirmarriageand underscoring
Hamilton'ssexual deception,but in so doingtheyeffectively
what was most novel about the real factsof the
highlighted
case.73 Disturbingly,
for observers,Hamilton'sdeceptionof
Pricewas perpetrated
withoutrecourseto the standardtactics
brideof comic, artfulavoidanceascribedto the counterfeit
a male
sexualrelationsor employing
grooms,such as refusing
newspaperreportsemphasized
accomplice.On the contrary,
Price'stestimony
attrial,euphemistically
thatshe'thought
writing
the Prisonera Man, owingto the Prisoner'susingcertainvile
and deceitfulPractices,not fitto be mention'd'.74In other
words,based on therealfactsofHamilton'strial,pressaccounts
circulatedthe idea that Hamiltonhad imitatednot only a
man's sexedbody,but his sexualbodyas well.75It is thissuccessfulimitation
ofthemalesexualbodythatseparatesa 'female
husband' such as Mary Hamiltonfroma 'counterfeit
bridesuch
as
Sarah
Ketson.76
The
new
marks
groom'
terminology
theshift:whereastheword'bridegroom'
evokestheephemeral
actofmarrying,
theword'husband'evokessexualconsummation
and an ongoingstateofmarriage.77
In thewakeoftheHamiltoncase,newspaper
ofpassing
reports
womenwho marriedotherwomenbeganto presentthesexual
and emotionaldimensionsoftheseliaisonsin newways,elaboratingon both sexual mechanicsand emotionalattachments.
For example,theDailyAdvertiser
for4 September1751 records
72
Trial testimonyforthe Hamiltoncase is quoted fromSheridanBaker,'Henry
Fielding's TheFemaleHusband:Fact and Fiction',PMLA, lxxiv(1959), 220.
Mag. (Nov. 1746), 612.
73Gentleman's
7 Nov. 1746.
74Daily Advertiser,
otherreportsimplythattwowomenmightknowingly
75In contrast,
marryand live
togetheras husbandand wife:see,forexample,LondonChron.,16-18 Feb. 1764, 161.
76The phrase 'female husband' actually originates with Henry Fielding's
fictionalizedaccount of the Hamilton case, The FemaleHusband (London, 1746),
whichI willdiscussbelow.
77The onlyoccurrenceofthe phrasebefore1746 ofwhichI am aware is in 'The
Male and Female Husband' (c. 1676), a ballad about a male hermaphrodite
brought
up as a girl.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

155

a Lancasterwoman'who has marriedsevenWives,thefirstsix


but theseventh
youngWomen,who weredeceiv'dbyArtifice,
an
soon
discover'd
her Bedfellow'.
being experiencedWidow,
reference
to the use of
What is new here is the semi-explicit
In
dildo.
1760
Barbara
'Artifice' thatis, a
Hill, who as John
Brownpursueda varietyof occupationsforfifteen
years,was
discoveredwhenshe attemptedto enlistas a soldier;she had
'about fiveyearsago marrieda woman. .. withwhomshe has
livedveryagreeablyeversince': 'On her sex beingdiscovered
afterher enlisting,her supposedwifecame to town in great
affliction,
beggingthattheymightnot be parted'.78We are a
longwayherefromtheamusedridiculedescribedbyWood in
in 1700. On
1694 or perpetuatedby the Counterfeit
Bridegroom
the reported'affliction'
of Hill's wifealignstheir
the contrary:
idealofcompanionate
unionwithan emerging
marriage.
The widelypublicized case of Sarah Paul, alias Samuel
Bundy,who marriedMaryParlourin October1759 in Southof these
the growingunderstanding
wark,further
exemplifies
in
of
sexual
affection.
Six
months
terms
reciprocal
relationships
in March 1760, Parlourbroughtlegalprointotheirmarriage,
and 'was
ceedingsagainstPaul aftershe leftan apprenticeship
Wife
for
who
her
to
Support,
expended
obliged dependupon
her Money and pawn'd her Cloaths forher Mate's Maintenance, which is the Fraud she is charg'd with'; despite her
however,reportsdescribePaul as a womanwho
imprisonment,
'dearlyloves' her wife,and recordthat'thereseems a strong
Love, or Friendship,on the otherSide, as she [Parlour]keeps
79 At Paul's trial
the PrisonerCompanyin her Confinement'.
fifteen
MaryParlour,herbride,not
dayslater,'theprosecutrix,
78LondonChron.,31 Jan.-2 Feb. 1760, 117. As these examples make clear,
expressionsof 'public hostility'to passingwomen did not followsimplyfromthe
'masculine sexual privilegesof access to women', as Clark maintains in her
'Womanhood and Manhood in the TransitionfromPlebeian to Working-Class
Culture', 197. Some cases of access to women were toleratedor even viewedwith
compassion; when hostilitywas triggered,it was forspecificmodalitiesof access
(forexample,officialmarriageor physicaldeception).
20-22 Mar. 1760, 3. Parlour
or, LondonIntelligencer,
Evening-Post:
79Whitehall
was a reluctantprosecutorofherhusband,onlyactingafterPaul was discoveredto
be a woman by some oftheirneighbours,and the firstpublicationofthatdiscovery
on 20 Mar. 1760. Paul was committedon Parlour's comin the PublicAdvertiser
plaint (perhaps due to neighbourhoodpressure)the next day, 21 March. For her
part,Paul claimedthatParlourhad become aware of her sex much earlier'but was
20-22
determin'dforsome Time not to expose theMatter': Whitehall
Evening-Post,
Mar. 1760, 3.

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156

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

The wholeepisode
appearingagainsther,shewas discharged'.80
is clearlyframedas a quarrelbetweenpreviouslyconsenting
ofthepressto thisfactoscillatesbetween
lovers,and theattitude
censure.Newspaperreports,
bemusedtoleranceand voyeuristic
their
in
a
liaison
indeed,narrate
languagethatimplicatesthem
in a properly
sexualrelation(notmerelya companionateone):
Paul is labelleda 'femalehusband'on numerousoccasions,and
is describedin one accountas being'carriedbeforea Magistrate,on the singularchargeof havingcommittedmatrimony
withone ofherown sex'.81 Indeed, an earlyreporthad it that
Paul, as Bundy,had 'actedtheBullyat bad Houses' where'her
Behaviourwas singularin playingwithand kissingtheGirls'.82
The languageand detailsofthepresscoverageofthePaul case
areperhapsless sensationalthanin thatofMaryHamilton,but
once againthepresumedcrimeis ofa clearlysexual,notmerely
who heardthe
financial,nature.JusticeClarke,the magistrate
was
troubled
Paul's
behaviour,foralthough
case,
certainly
by
he dischargedher when Parlourfailedto appear,he sent a
strongmessageof disapprovalby orderingher 'man's apparel
to be burnedin his presence,and laid the strictest
injunction
on hernevermoreto appearin thatcharacter'.83
Implicitin theaccountsofHamiltonand Paul is therecognitionofa properly
same-sexdesire.Lesbianismwas an indecent
actto eighteenth-century
British
eyes,albeitone that,unlikesodOutsidelibertine
or medical
omy,was notlegallyproscribed.84
80 PublicLedger:or,Daily Register
and Intelligence,
7 Apr. 1760, 2.
ofCommerce
81 For references
to Paul as a 'femalehusband', see ibid.,7 Apr. 1760, 2; 'The

Female Husband: A New Song' (single-sheetballad in the Madden collectionat


CambridgeUniversity,c.1790; internalevidencerefersto the case of Sarah Paul,
suggestingits compositionc.1760). The second quotation is fromthe Monthly
Review(June1760), 522 (reviewinga workI have not been able to locate, The GenuineAdventures
ofSarah P-l).
82PublicAdvertiser,
20 Mar. 1760, 2. A 'bully' was a pimp or brothelbouncer.
The association here of cross-dressing,
prostitutionand lesbianism,in a bawdyhouse context,meritsfurtherinvestigation.An account of Elizabeth, alias John,
Haywood evokesa similarmilieu:passingas a man, Haywood 'spent her evenings
at the public [sic] withher male companions,and could, like them,swear witha
tolerablegrace, get drunk,smoak tobacco, kiss the girls,and now and then kick
a bully':Hutton,CourtsofRequests,
427.
83PublicLedger,7 Apr. 1760, 2.
84The legal situationwas different
on the Continent:see Louis Crompton,'The
vi
Mythof Lesbian Impunity:Capital Laws from1270 to 1791', Jl Homosexuality,
Acts: TheLifeofa LesbianNun in Renaissance
(1980-1); JudithC. Brown,Immodest
Italy (New York, 1986), introduction;Theo Van der Meer, 'Tribades on Trial', Jl
Hist. Sexuality,i (1991).

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

157

Yet despitesuch
texts,it rarelyreceivedexplicitpresentation.85
double
entendres
to broadcast
used
reticence,press reports
offemalehusbands,as is
information
aboutthesexualactivities
evidentfromsuchphrasesas 'provedtoo knowing'(in the 1773
case in theGentleman's
(in the
Magazine),'deceiv'dbyArtifice'
case of the Lancasterwoman),or 'committedmatrimony'
(in
thecase ofSarahPaul). We haveseen,too,thatsexualdeviance
was a concernof some magistrates
and thatfemalehusbands
in termsborrowedfromthe legal
mightbe publiclyportrayed
languageon buggery.The attitudesof wivessuch as Parlour
also hintat a richveinof affection
and sexualdesiresharedby
someofthesecouples.Yet despitethisemerging
understanding
offemalemarriagein sexualterms,womenwhowereconvicted
as femalehusbandswere not chargedwithany sexual crime,
not even an illegalmarriage;rather,theywere prosecutedas
cheatsor withidle, loose or disorderly
conduct,or fortheft.
Hamilton's
to
trial
she
records, was to be '[c]ontinAccording
ued as a vagrantforSix Monthsto hard Labour, and to be
In otherwords,althoughpressreportsof
whippedpublickly'.86
femalehusbandspublishedafter1746 increasingly
construed
in
these relationships termsof sexual deviance (withfemale
husbandspresentedas quasi-sodomites),the desireto punish
such behaviourdid not lead to anynew legislationor jurispruthe sexual libertiesof the
dence.87Instead,like prostitution,
femalehusbands were frequently(althoughnot exclusively)
treatedas a formofplebeiandisorder.88
85Thus a reviewerof the Case of CatherineVizzani, a work on a cross-dressing
and dildo-usingItalianwoman,begged 'leave to declineanyfurther
mentionofthis
[text],fora reason that our readerswill easily guess at; and we are sure that the
Rev. (Mar. 1751), 37.
femalepartofthemwillas easilypardontheomission':Monthly
this
86 Cited in Baker,'HenryFielding's TheFemaleHusband',220. Significantly,
is the maximumpenaltyfora firstoffender(17 Geo. II, c. 5, ?9). Press accounts
misreportedthe natureof the conviction,describingHamilton as being sentenced
as 'an uncommonnotoriousCheat': Boddely'sBathJl,3 Nov. 1746, 132.
87There was no consensusamongmagistrates
on femalehusbands.In contrastto
those groupsof magistrateswho identifiedin the actionsoffemalehusbandsa sexin need of criminalregulation,othersdenied the possibilityof lesbian
ual proclivity
desire.In the words of one magistrate,'a woman receivesverylittlemorepleasure
in salutinga livingwoman, than a dead one; whereasa man, likethe figurebefore
the Bench, seemed to receivea pleasureinexpressible':Hutton,CourtsofRequests,
428. This 'man' was ElizabethHaywood.
88Female husbands convicted under the vagrancyacts would normallyface
commitment
to hardlabouror whipping(or both) in a bridewell;thoseconvictedas
cheats (generallya moreseriouscrime)faceda fine,prison,thepillory,whippingor
(cont.onp. 158)

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158

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

IV
SEXUAL DISORDER AND THE PASSING WOMAN

The newspaper,
legaland otherrecordsreviewedin theprevious
twosectionsofthisessayreveala clearpattern:despiteextensive
legal and social tolerance(and sometimeseven celebration)of
women warriorsand otherpassing-womenworkers,passing
womenthoughtdeceitfully
to have marriedotherwomenwere
as crafty
ostracizedand evencriminalized,
initially
consistently
and then,aftermid
rogues(thatis, as counterfeit
bridegrooms),
century,as sexual impostors(that is, as femalehusbands).
thesis- that'passingwomenwere
LynneFriedli'sinfluential
for
so
that
'the majorissue was deception
prosecuted fraud',
rather
and the consequentusurpationof rightsand privileges,
thansexual deviancein itself'- is not supportedby the evidencemarshalledhere.89On thecontrary:
althoughsex-related
in
from
are
the
counterfeit
bridedevelopment
rights involved,
deviit
is
the
sexual
to
female
husband
groom
precisely implicit
ance ofthesewomen,nottheirgenderdisguise,thatis key.Class
modes ofbodily
ideology,too, as broughtto bear on different
impersonation,
playsa centralrole in shapingthe legal penalties suffered
by femalehusbands.If the imitationof the sexed
- to
body of a man - his hardiness,toughnessand strength
get and keep workcould be justifiedby a workingwoman's
poverty,theimitationof a man's sexualbodyviolated,rather
thanconfirmed,
by allowing
properrelationsof subordination
one womanto be themasterofanotherin marriage,
becoming
(n. 88 cont.)

(or some combination).Of fiveprosecutedfemalehusbandswhose


transportation
punishmentsare recorded,two were committedto bridewellsand whipped (one
publicly),one was bound over, one was transported,and one was pilloriedand
imprisoned.On theuse ofbridewellsto controlplebeiandisorderand insubordination, see JoannaInnes, 'Prisons forthe Poor: EnglishBridewells,1555-1800', in
FrancisSnyderand Douglas Hay (eds.), Labour,Law, and Crime:An HistoricalPerspective(London, 1987). On the use of whippingand the pilloryto punishcheats
ofvariousranks,see J.M. Beattie,Crimeand theCourtsinEngland,
and sex offenders
1660-1800 (Princeton,1986), 461-8. On prostitutionand plebeian disorder,see
Womenin Eighteenth-Century
Henderson,Disorderly
London,passim.
theLove
89Friedli,'"PassingWomen"', 237. See also LillianFaderman,Surpassing
ofMen (New York, 1981), 49, 61. RandolphTrumbachargues'thatmost women
who dressedand passed as men forany lengthof time,did not seek to have sexual
relationswith women, and this was probablytrue even of those who married
women': see his 'London's Sapphists',115. In Emma Donoghue's view,however,
historianssuchas Friedli'haveminimisedthesexualelementofthesestoriesbyarguWomen,61.
ingthatthereal crimewas passingas men': Donoghue, Passionsbetween

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

159

de facto 'Lord of her, and all she's worth'.90That the legal


treatmentof femalehusbands was indeed consolidated,by
theend oftheeighteenth
century,alonglinesofsexualityand
rather
than
class,
gender,is well illustrated
by therepresentation of passing women in popular legal digests, such as
AndrewKnapp and William Baldwin's CriminalChronology
(1810).

Considerfirst
thecase ofSarahStanley,
a womanwhowas
in 1796ofstealing
a cloakvaluedat threeshillings,
convicted
wasleniently
dealtwith.91
On being
and,on showing
remorse,
circumstances'
at thehandsof the
'reducedto veryindigent
fellow'shehadmarried,
toKnappand
'idledissolute
according
wenttoLondon:
Baldwin,
Stanley
andwriting
an excellent
hand,sheputon
Havinghada goodeducation,
in the Commen'sapparel,and forsome timewroteforgentlemen
she
mons; but meetingwitha recruiting
serjeantat Westminster,
oflighthorse... She servedupwardsof
engagedto servein a regiment
and was promotedto therankof
a yearwithgreatcreditto herself,
after
[and]washonourably
discharged,
corporal... butwasdiscovered
shewnher,notonlybyMajorHorsley... but
manymarksoffriendship
bytheotherofficers.92

as an
serviceadds to her good character
Stanley'smilitary
industrious
plebeianwoman.WhenStanleyleavesher 'idle'
anditis
anda recruit,
itis forhardworkas a copyist
husband,
on accountof herplebeianmeritthatshe is given'a slight
Friedlihas suggested
thatwomen
sentence'and discharged.93
'the
men'whoconfirmed
as 'honorary
warriors
weretolerated
valueofbeingmale',whileDugawhas argued,basedon the
herofemale
a specifically
thattheysymbolized
balladtradition,
masculine
For Knappand Baldwin,
ism.94
however,
Stanley's
90As Belindaputsit,after
61.
Taverner,
Husband,
marrying
LadyUpstart:
Artful

STANLEY
was indictedforfeloniouslystealing,on the 24th of October
91'SARAH

hersorrowandbeing'willing
to makeit
[1796],a silkcloak,value3s'; expressing
Anon.,
Stanleywas 'Privately
whippedand discharged':
good',thethirty-year-old
1796 ...
the26thofOctober,
... in theOld-Bailey,on Wednesday
The WholeProceedings

(London,1796),892.

92AndrewKnapp and WilliamBaldwin,CriminalChronology:


or,TheNew Newgate

wasa ruralmilliner's
4 vols.(London,1810),iv,15-16.Stanley
apprentice,
Calendar,
herdischarge,
After
andher'idle'husbanda shoemaker.
a ruralsteward,
herfather
stolethe
merenecessity,
Stanley'cameto town,was muchreduced,and through
cloakforwhichshewastriedandconvicted'.
Ibid.,16.
to seekan
93Ibid.On beingfreedfromNewgateshe promised'henceforward
intheproperhabitofhersex':ibid.
honestlivelihood,
vi (1985),27;
andStrife,
'WomenWhoDressedas Men',Trouble
94LynneFriedli,
Dugaw, WarriorWomenand PopularBalladry,5, 41.

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160

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

usurpationis neitherheroicnor honorary;instead,theyfocus


on constructing
an exculpatory
ofhermeritas a good
narrative
plebeiansubordinate.
and its representation,
contrasts
Stanley'slegal treatment,
sharplywiththatof Ann Marrow,a femalehusbandwho, as
newspapersreported,'was convictedat the Guildhall,Westminster',on 5 July1777 'forgoingin man's cloaths,and being
marriedto threedifferent
womenby a fictitious
name,and for
them
of
the
and
cloaths';she was sendefrauding
[sic]money
tencedto six months'imprisonment
and the pillory.95
Comwith
for
male
Marrow's
pared
punishments
homosexuality,
sentencemayseemlight:menconvictedofsodomyfacedhanging,and thepenaltyforattemptedsodomywas thepillory,ten
monthsin jail and a ?10 fine.Nevertheless,
because of the
that
attended
the
roughjustice
pillory,dependingon attitudes
towardscrimeand criminal,thepricea convictedfemalehusbandmightpaywas high.Pressreports
recordthatwhenMarrow
was pilloried,'[t]he case being singularand uncommon,[it]
excitedthe curiosity
ofseveralthousandsofpeople to see her;
fromsome of whom she receiveda severepelting'.96Knapp
and Baldwinstresstheseverity
ofherpunishment:
'so greatwas
the resentment
of the spectators,particularly
the femalepart,
thattheypeltedherto such a degree,thatshe lostthe sightof
bothhereyes!'97Theydo notsearchfortheplebeianrootsofher
nordo theyseekto justify
behaviour,
it,as in thecase ofStanley,
and theyprovideno exculpatoryinterpretation
of Marrow's
thefts.
By connectingMarrow'sactionsto serialfraudsof 'money
and cloaths',newspaperaccountsmade the chargesof 'going
in man's cloaths' and marrying
'threedifferent
womenby a
name' seeminstrumental
fictitious
to herthefts,
as ifshewerea
brideplebeianconfidenceartistin the mould of a counterfeit
groom.Knapp and Baldwintakethesame approach:
Otherinstances
haveoccurred,
in thecourseofourresearches
into
crimes,ofwomenassumingthebreeches,forthe purpose of plundering

theirownsex,bya pretended
witha man.Underthisassumed
marriage
and New Daily Advertiser,
7 July1777. The pilloryis not listedas a
95 Gazetteer
punishmentforvagrants(see, forexample,17 Geo. II, c. 5, ?9); presumablyMarrow
was convictedas a cheat.(The relevantSessionRoll forhercase is listedas destroyed.)
23 July1777.
96MorningChron.,and LondonAdvertiser,
iii, 395. Marrow 'stood in pillory,
97 Knapp and Baldwin, CriminalChronology,
fromtwelvetillone o'clock': MorningChron.,23 July1777.

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GENDER'STWOBODIES

161

oftheirdupes,and
oftheproperty
character
theypossessedthemselves
andtheirloss.98
leavethemtobewailtheirincredulity

Ofcourse,as thecaseofSarahPaulmakesclear,notallpassing
to cheattheir
otherwomendidso simply
womenwhomarried
didoccur,wives,as wellas
wives- indeed,whenseparations
initiated
them.99Andtherepresentation
ofMarrow
husbands,
as a plebeianconfidence
artistdoes not prepareus forthe
she endured.Knapp and Baldwinnotethatthe
vilification
wereangriest
andmostviolent.
A
'female
part'oftheonlookers
is theviolence
parallelto Marrow'streatment
contemporary
forattempted
theretoo
directed
againstmenpilloried
sodomy;
In contrast,
womenweresomeofthegreatest
aggressors.
prosevenwhencommitted
titutes,
(likesomefemalehusbands)for
weregenerally
well acceptedin their
theirsexualactivities,
It isplausible
tospeculate,
communities.100
then,thatMarrow's
athersuccessin impersonating
assailants
wereindeedenraged
ofthesexual,not
a husband- thatis, at herimpersonation
of
a
man.101
sexed,body
merely
In short,after1746a distinct
ofsexualcrime
undercurrent
in
of
the
popularrepresentationpassingwomenwho
emerges
married
other
evenincaseswhere
thecounterfeit-bridewomen,
continued
tobe drawnupon.Thisundercurrent
is
groommotif
98Knapp and Baldwin,CriminalChronology,
iii, 395.

99Caroline, the wife of Sarah Geals, did this by telling Geals's employer,
whom she later married, that 'she had no husband, and that her supposed
husband was not a man, as he had been led to believe, but a woman': Times,21
Sept. 1865, 9.
100For the treatmentof pilloried sodomites, see the facsimile newspaper
accounts reproducedwith The Phoenixof Sodom (1813) in Randolph Trumbach
(ed.), SodomyTrials(New York, 1986). RobertB. Shoemakerarguesthatwomen
were particularlyactive in London riotsprotesting'deviant sexual behavior': see
his 'The London "Mob" in the Early EighteenthCentury',Jl Brit. Studies,xxvi
(1987), 285. In The Female Husband, Fielding portrayswomen as leading the
attackon Hamilton: HenryFielding, The FemaleHusbandand OtherWritings,
ed.
Claude E. Jones(Liverpool, 1960), 48. In contrast,'The freeingof arrestedprostitutesby crowdswho challengedthe rightof watchmenand constablesto take up
the women was a commonplace': Henderson, DisorderlyWomenin EighteenthLondon,47.
Century
101 Other
to femalehusbandsand theirwivesafter
reportsrecordsimilarhostility
mid century.The original'examinationof Sarah Paul' beforeJusticeClarke,scheduled for25 March, had to be 'postponedforfearof a riotand disturbance':Public
Ledger,26 Mar. 1760, 2. At thefuneralofJamesAllen,herwidowfaced'brutaland
inhumanattacks'by individuals'who chose to formtheirown uncharitableopinNarrative. . . ofJames
ions of the affair,and act accordingly':Anon., Authentic
Allen,38.

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162

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

clearlyevidentin Knapp and Baldwin'saccountof Hamilton,


whichassertsthat'a woman,accordingto theritesoftheestablishedchurch,marrying
a woman,is something
strangeand unnatural'.102We can see it,too,in pressreportsoftheLancaster
womanwho deceivedsixwomen'by Artifice'
beforea seventh
her:
'There
was
no
Law
her
on
thatAccount;
exposed
against
but 'tis for Theft she is transported'.103The implicationis
clear: impersonation
of the sexual body of a man ('Artifice')
has become the crux of what is criminalized,even in the
absence of other cheats or larcenies. But 'the law not
such an offence,[it] has not providedan adcontemplating
equate punishment'.104Hamilton'sjudgesapparently
gavethis
matterconsiderable
since,accordingto pressaccounts,
thought,
therewas 'a greatDebate forsome Time in Court about the
Natureof her Crime,and whatto call it'.'05The magistrates
assumedthatHamiltonwas guiltyofa sex-related
offencethat
was like sodomyformen (thus the factthatshe penetrated
Pricewas carefully
recordedat trial)- but whatto do in the
absence of an 'adequate' law? Ultimatelythe judges took
advantageof Hamilton'splebeian statusto chargeher with
vagrancy.
The criminalization
of femalehusbands,in the absence of
and
(pace Knapp
Baldwin)an 'adequate' law,findsthegeneral
of
use
policing plebeiandisorder(includingthe inappropriate
of disguise)linkedwithan emergingsense of theiractionsas
constitutinga properlysexual crime. In common law, of
course,thecontrolofmaritalproperty
laywiththehusbandas
baronofhiswife.106Althoughnotspelledout in thedocuments
underconsideration
of a baronby a
here,the impersonation
womanwouldseemto entail,de jure,a misappropriation
ofher
wife'sproperty.
Such a hypothesis
turn
explainsan interesting
ofphraseofKnapp and Baldwin:theywritethatit was 'under
the assumedrightof a husband'thatAnn Marrowdefrauded
102

Knapp and Baldwin,CriminalChronology,


ii, 125.
103Daily Advertiser,
4 Sept. 1751; Gentleman's
Mag. (Sept. 1751), 426.
104Knapp and
Baldwin,CriminalChronology,
iii, 395; see also ibid.,ii, 125.
105 Daily Advertiser,
7 Nov. 1746. A letteralso survivesdocumentingthatmembersofthe CorporationofGlastonvigorouslylobbiedthe courtto have 'thewoman
imposter... punishedin the severestmanner'forhaving'imposed on' Price: cited
in Baker,'HenryFielding's TheFemaleHusband',220.
106For a concise account of the relevantlaw, see Hill, Women,Work,and Sexual
Politicsin Eighteenth-Century
England,196-7.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

163

her wives 'of theirproperty'.107A passingwoman could of


course onlyappropriatethe propertyof her deceivedwifein
thiswayifshe consummatedand sustainedthe marriagefora
the connectionof sexual and
periodof time.By undermining
theseliaisonswereinherently
socialorderinmarriage,
disorderly:
based on sex and,withsucfamily
hierarchy
theydenaturalized
cessfulsexualintercourse,
challengedthesexualindispensability
of men. As the fraudulentbaronof a femecovert,
finally,the
a symbolicoffenceagainstherown
femalehusbandcommitted
statusas a plebeianwoman;a womanwhobecomesa 'feme-baron'
(to coin a phrase)is analogouswitha servantwhobecomesthe
shecommitsa crimeagainststatus.'08
masterofa fellowservant:
If we compare the vagrantMary Hamiltonwith another
passingwomanwho married,the industriousMary East, the
importanceof ideas of sexual deviance in the treatmentof
since both Hamiltonand
femalehusbandsis well illustrated,
East experiencedthe effectsof socio-sexualprejudicedespite
in theirindustriousness.
differences
Accordingto pressreports,
afterpassingas JamesHow and elopingwithanotherwoman,
East establishedherselfas a pillarofherlocal community,
risingin social standingto becomea tavernownerand servingin
severalparishofficesovera periodof morethanthirty
years.
of her married
On the one hand, despitethe industriousness
life,East was 'fearfuland cautiousof a discovery',whichled
her to pay off- much like men accused of sodomy - a blackto revealhertruesex.109Passing-women
mailerwhothreatened

workerswereusuallytoleratedwhendiscovered,so East may


have paid blackmailto coverup anyhintof sexualirregularity
in some respects,
in her relationship
withher wife.Certainly,
on her
as
a
East embracedherirregular
'feme-baron':
standing
107This commenton Marrow
appears in the case of Sarah Stanley:Knapp and
iv, 16. The propertyat stake could be significant,
Baldwin, CriminalChronology,
since portionsforfemaleservantsof ?20 to ?30 werecommon:Hill, Women,Work,
and Sexual Politicsin Eighteenth-Century
England,187-8.
108As Belinda/SirModish, marriedto Lady Upstart,puts it,whenherwifecomHusband,59).
plains ofherto others:'She's undermyCommand' (Taverner,Artful
But thecrimeis notonlyagainststatus,sinceit dependson successfulsexualdeviance
as well.
109'Remrrkable[sic]Connectionof two Women': Gentleman's
Mag. (Aug. 1766),
359. East and her partner,neitherwell born, startedtheirlifetogetherwith?30;
subsequently,East obtained?500 in a legal action,and withthiswindfalltheywere
able to set up as publicans.Afterthedeathofherwifein July1766, East successfully
tookherblackmailersto court.Ibid. (Oct. 1766), 492-3.

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164

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

settledhalfof herestateon
wife'sdeath,East onlygrudgingly
heroverher sex and
herwife'srelationsaftertheyconfronted
forcedher,unlikea real baron,to honourthe 'legacies'leftby
On theotherhand,once she was discovherdeceasedfeme.110
ered,East returnedto femaledress,publicizedherwealthand
hercohabitation
as a virtuousaction,since'[b]othhad
justified
been crossedin love whenyoung'."' In doingthis,East drew
on the languagesof plebeianindustriousness
and elitefemale
It seemsclearthatEast herselfexpectedlittletolerfriendship.
ance forher impersonation,
wereit to be associatedwiththe
imitationof the male sexual body in marriage,and, once her
sex was exposed,she sought,successfully,
to put offthe 'femebaron'and to characterize
herrelationship
to herdeceasedwife
insteadin desexualized,industrious
and egalitarian
terms."12
V
FROM TRIBADE TO 'FEME-BARON'

The shiftfromcounterfeit
to femalehusbandwas a
bridegroom
decisivedevelopment
in the eighteenth-century
understanding
ofthepassingplebeianwoman.The existenceofcertaintypesof
sexualrelationsbetweenworking-class
womenwas clearlytied,
in reportsof passingwomenwho marriedotherwomenafter
1746,to ideas ofan undetectable(or at leastundetected)artful
imitation
ofmalevirility,
ratherthanto tribadicorhermaphroditicanatomy.113This newperspective
is wellreflected
in those
"o QuotationfromGentleman's
Mag. (July1766), 339. Newspaperreportstella
vividstory,recordingthat 'as soon as the supposed wifewas dead and buried,her
relativesset out forPoplar,to claimhershareoftheeffects;but the pretendedhusband refusedto accountwiththem[and] earlyon Saturdaymorning[12 July]hav12-15 July
ing obtainedWomen's apparrel[sic] absconded': LondonEvening-Post,
1766, 3. It is onlyafterthelapse ofsome daysthat'[t]he Affair... is compromised,
and the Relationsof the deceased Woman ... is [sic] to receivethe Half of what
these two extraordinary
Persons acquired in Trade, which will amount to near
1500 1.': PublicAdvertiser,
18 July1766.
111Gentleman's
Mag. (July1766), 339.
112
As MarthaVicinus observes,thisnormalizedHow's lifealong the lines ofthe
heterosexualromance of the femalewarriorballads: see her "'They Wonder to
whichSex I Belong": The HistoricalRoots ofthe Modern Lesbian Identity',FeministStudies,xviii (1992), 477-8. On lesbianismand elite femalefriendship,see
Susan S. Lanser, 'Befriendingthe Body: Female Intimaciesas Class Acts', EightStudies,xxxii(1998-9).
eenth-Century
113Atribade,fromthe Greekfor'rubbing',was a woman (oftenthoughtto have
a long, or elongated,clitoris)who took a masculinerole in sexual relationswith
otherwomen.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

165

mideighteenth-century
libertine
textswhichpresentlesbiansex
not as a stagein the heterosexualinitiationof a girlbut as a
of 'artificial
Penis's'.114Indeed,the
responseto the availability
of
the
female
husband
figure
supplantsnot onlythe sexually
'innocent'counterfeit
bridegroom(as we saw above), but also
in
transition
fromone-sexto two-sexmodelsofsexual
an
(in age
the
'masculine'woman of Renaissance
difference) potentially
Three medicaland quasi-legaltextsin particular,
sexology.115
cultural
composedbya keygroupofmid-century
opinion-makers,
documenta vigorousdebateoverwhethersex,genderor desire
Anticwas at therootofthebehaviourofthefemalehusband."116
yearssome aspectsof the 'gender
ipatingby morethanthirty
forthe 1780s, these
panic' thatDror Wahrmanhypothesizes
linkthebedroomimitation
ofa man to anxiety
worksvariously
ofthemalesexualbody,and to concern
aboutthereplaceability
themalesexedbody.117
withthesocialconsequencesofimitating
underthe entryfor'Tribades',
In his MedicinalDictionary,
ofsomewomen'becomes
RobertJamesdiscusseshowtheclitoris
so farprominent,that theyare either,by ignorantPersons,
into Men, or make Attemptsto
thoughtto be transform'd
conversein a criminalmannerwith otherWomen'. James
in theRenaissanceand stillcurrent
opposestheview,circulated
see JohnCleland,Memoirs
ofa WomanofPleasure(1748-9),
114On sexualinitiation,
ed. Peter Sabor (Oxford, 1985), 12-13; on dildoes, see Anon., A Spy on Mother
Midnight,3 vols. (London, 1748), i, 32; Anon., TheSappho-an:An HeroicPoem...
thePleasureswhichtheFair Sex EnjoywithEach Other(London, [1749]),
Describing
43-4. Thirtyyearsearlier,in Tractatusde Hermaphroditis:
or,A TreatiseofHermaphrodites,appended to JohnHenry Meibomius, A Treatiseof the Use of Floggingin
VenerealAffairs(London, 1718), Edward Curll offeredboththe 'largenessof the
Penis's' (p. 41) as causes oflesbianism.
Clitoris'(p. 24) and 'artificial
see Thomas Laqueur,
s15On one- and two-sex models of sexual difference,
Making Sex: Body and GenderfromtheGreeksto Freud (Cambridge, 1990). In the
women weresometimesthought
contextof the one-sexmodel of sexual difference,
to undergopartialor completesex-changesintomen.
3 vols. (London, 1743-5), Fielding'sFemale
116RobertJames'sMedicinalDictionary,
Vizzani(1751).
oftheCase ofCatherine
Husband(1746), and Cleland'stranslation
117 Cleland's concernwiththe imitationof the male sexed body is proximateto
the extensivemedia coverage surroundingHannah Snell in the summer and
autumnof 1750. Mid-centuryevidencelikethissuggeststhatany 'culturalshift'in
earthe 1780s from'instability'to 'fixityof genderboundaries'echoes a significant
lier 'panic' over freegender play: see Dror Wahrman, 'Percy'sPrologue: From
Gender Play to Gender Panic in Eighteenth-Century
England', Past and Present,
no. 159 (May 1998), 149-50. On anxietyabout the replaceabilityof the male sexual body, see n. 105 above, and Cleland's commenton the use of 'Artifices'(such
as a dildo) by CatherineVizzani, which, 'if agreeable to the Italian Goat, would
shocktheDelicacy of our Nation': [Cleland], Case ofCatherineVizzani,9.

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166

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

in theearlyeighteenth
thatsuchwomenwereactually
century,
and arguesinsteadthat
intersexor hermaphroditic
individuals,
were
a
criminal
sexual
impulsebyimperthey
simplyrealizing
sonatingmen.118He citesas evidencedetailsfromthe lifeof
HenricaSchuria,a womanwho 'beingwearyofherSex, dress'd
herselflikea Man, and serv'din Qualityof a Soldierforsome
time'.119
JamesframesSchuria'slifeas a case ofpsycho-sexual
heradoptionofmalegarbto weariness
pathology:he attributes
withher'sex', forexample,ratherthanto poverty
or patriotism.
What especiallyinterestsJamesis that 'she was accus'd of
uncommonand preternatural
Lust' in her liaisonswithother
women,includinga widowwhowas so 'pleas'd' withSchuria's
'Degree of Vigourand Virility'that'if the Laws of the Land
had permitted,she would have marriedher, perhapsmore
thanshe had done herdeceas'd Husband,by whom
chearfully
she had six Children'.On examination,
it turnsout thatthis
would-befemalehusbandhad a clitoristhatwas 'halfa Finger
long in Her, and in Thicknessto resemble[sic]the Penis of a
toher'strong
Schuria'sdesires(referring
Boy'.Jamescriminalizes
Inclinationsto herunnaturalCrime'),and implicitly
frownson
her cross-dressing,
he
comes
to
no
definitive
conclusion
yet
aboutwhether
theoriginofherbehaviourwas physical,psychoof
logicalor social (thatis, a consequenceofherlongishclitoris,
her 'masculineTurn of Mind' or of her 'criminalDalliance').
Schuriawas able to bed thewidowwithouta dildo,but in all
otherrespectsshe fitsthepatternofa femalehusband.
The yearafterJames'sremarkson tribades,HenryFielding
turnedmorefirmly
to social and psychological
grounds,rather
than anatomicalones, to explainthe criminalpassion of the
passinglesbian. The FemaleHusband,Fielding'sfictionalized
accountofMaryHamilton,inventsforheran extensivelesbian
experiencewithAnneJohnson,thewomanby whom'she was
firstseduced'.120 Significantly,
Fieldingmakes thisseduction
118
They are 'mere Women, whose Clitoriswas grownto an exorbitantSize, and
whose Labia Pudendorum
were preternaturally
tumid':James,MedicinalDictionary,
s.v. 'Hermaphroditus'.
119
Ibid., s.v. 'Tribades'. Jamestook the case of Schuria (van der Schuyr)from
NicolaasTulp's Observationum
Medicarum
(Amsterdam,
1641). Dekkerand van de Pol
contextualize
herlifein theirTradition
in EarlyModernEurope,
ofFemaleTransvestism
52-3.
120Fielding,FemaleHusband,ed. Jones,30. Furtherreferences
to Fielding'stext,
in thisand the followingtwo paragraphs,are givenparenthetically.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

167

precedeHamilton'sadoptionof male disguiseand her lifeas a


Hamilton'sreligiouspassions,Johnson
husband.Firstinflaming
of
devotionintoa different
kind
turns'the ardour enthusiastic
of flame'whenthe two womensharea bed: 'Their conversation . . . soon became in the highestmannercriminal,and
notfitto be mention'dpastbetweenthem'(p. 31).
transactions
Fielding'schoice of languageis fitting,
givenhis trainingas a
illicitinterlawyer.The phrase'criminalconversation'
(literally,
course) commonlyappeared in the contextof an action for
monetary
damageslodgedby a husbandagainsthiswife'slover.
Here, too, it suggestsan act of sexualtrespasson the rightful
ofa man.121Fieldingfurther
property
sharpensthestigmaand
sense of sexual disorderby borrowinga phrasefromthe legal
to theactsofHamiltonand
languagearoundbuggery,
referring
crime
as
a
'not
fit
to
be
mention'd'.122
Johnson
In Fielding'sfictionalized
versionof events,Hamiltonturns
to male dressonlyafter
Johnsonleavesherfora man- thatis,
after
her
same-sex
desiresare awakened.In contrastto
only
does
not
James,Fielding
presentpassingas a man as a necessarymarkeror cause of lesbian desire.Instead,in Fielding's
renditionofHamilton'slife,she adoptsmale garbonlyto rival
(perhapsalso to mock)Johnson'smale loverand theostensible
of his body.123Hamilton'sfirstuse of bedroom
prerogatives
sexualdeceptionis to bilkan 'old lady,whosefortune
onlyshe
was desirousto possess':
After
somereflection
... a deviceentered
intoherhead,as strange
and
as itwaswickedandvile;andthiswas actually
to marry
the
surprizing,
oldwoman,andtodeceiveher,bymeanswhichdecency
meeven
forbids
to mention.
(p. 37)

Unlikethewidowfigurein thetheatrical
versionofthecounterthis
is
widow
motif,
feit-bridegroom
scandalouslyweddedand
bedded by thedisguisedwoman,becomingactually,ifbriefly,
a femecovert
to Hamilton's'feme-baron'.
Fieldingcould not be
121On 'crim. con.', as it was
known, see Lawrence Stone, UncertainUnions
and BrokenLives: Marriageand Divorcein England, 1660-1857 (Oxford, 1995),
45-7.
122Ed Cohen, 'Legislatingthe Norm: From Sodomy to Gross Indecency',South
AtlanticQuart.,lxxxviii(1989), 187. Fieldingadopts languagefoundin the coverage ofHamiltonin Boddely'sBathfl, 3 Nov. 1746, 132, and in theDaily Advertiser,
7 Nov. 1746.
123As Fieldinghas Johnsonboast, regardingher male lover,'thereare delights
infinitely
surpassingthe faintendearmentswe have experienc'dtogether':Female
Husband,ed. Jones,32.

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168

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER180

clearer:ifhe firstframesnon-phallic
lesbiansexualityas a kind
of femalesodomy- referring
to 'transactionsnot fitto be
mention'd'(p. 31) - he presentsthecombination
ofmale dis'wickedand vile' plan, also
guise and dildo as a thoroughly
linkedto the unmentionableness
of sodomy,thatthreatensto
supplant,byart,malepowerand properbeing.Fieldingmakes
thewidow'wellsatisfied
withherchoice' (p. 38) fora fewdays,
is discoveredto
untilHamilton,caughtwithoutherprosthesis,
be a 'femalebridegroom'
(p. 40) afterall.Withherfinalmarriage
to MaryPrice(theonlyspouserecordedin thetrialtranscripts),
of Hamiltonas a
Fieldingfollowsthe real-lifecriminalization
but
his
earlier
allusions
to
sexual
law (crim.
49),
vagrant(p.
con. and buggery)clearlydefineher marriagesto women as
sexualcrimes.
IfJamesreworks
of
notionsoftribadicdesirein histreatment
if
on
the cross-dressing
and
elaborates
the
Schuria,
Fielding
idea ofthefemalehusbandfromtherawmaterialofHamilton's
trialand treatsit as a stagein the sexuallifeof an exclusively
lesbian woman,JohnCleland exploitsthe indecencyof the
femalehusbandto criminalize
passingwomentoutcourtin The
Case ofCatherine
Vizzani.Clelandmakestwokeyassertionsin
his translationof GiovanniBianchi'swork.The firstfollows
directlyfromBianchi's medical analysis,whichis essentially
of thetheoryoftribadiclesbi(pace James)anotherrefutation
anism.124Ratherthana monstrous
body,Vizzani,likeHamilton,
'had Recourse to severaldelusiveImpudicities,not only to
establish
theCertainty,
butraisetheReputation
ofherManhood'
evidence
(p. 8). The 'case' ofVizzaniprovidesus withfurther
thatan exclusivedesireforotherwomen- the 'sappho-an'
construedby mid centuryin psypassion- was increasingly
or
rather
than anatomical,terms.125
behavioural,
chological
call forthe
The secondassertionis entirely
Cleland's:a strident
124
[Cleland], Case of CatherineVizzani, 43-4. Furtherreferencesto Cleland's
text,in thisparagraph,are givenparenthetically.
125In Anon., Sappho-an,Sappho is a tribadewho is able to please women with
'seemingvirileforce'(ibid.,29), butthetextlabelssuchlesbiansex a 'fraud'(ibid.,11)
- the dildo - as a
and suggeststhatit is the perfectionof an artificial
instrument
phallic simulacrum,ratherthan tribadicgenital anomalies, that lies behind the
growthoflesbianrelationsin England (ibid.,37-46). Cleland makesa relatedpoint
in his concludingremarks:'We ought,therefore,
to acquit Nature of any Fault in
thisstrangeCreature,and to look forthe Source of so odious and so unnaturala
Vice, onlyin herMind': [Cleland], Case ofCatherineVizzani,54.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

169

of all passingwomen.Afterprovidinghis own


criminalization
accountofa discoveredEnglishfemalehusband,Clelandwrites
that
fromhence may be borroweda veryjust Reason forpunishingmore
severely,or at least not making so lightof a Practice not altogether
uncommon, which is that of Women appearing in public Places in
Mens Cloaths; a Thing thatmanifestsan extremeAssurance,and which
Kinds.
mayhave manyill Consequences, and thosetoo ofverydifferent

(pp.64-5)

Cleland's targethereis not lesbiansexual activityor desireas


such,but thepubliclibertiesofwomenin male disguise.After
to the Mosaic Law's proscription
of cross-dressing,
referring
Cleland claims:'It is also lookedupon as a greatCrimebyour
Law, as wellforpoliticalas moralReasons'(p. 65). Was Cleland
ofthe Hamiltontrial,and confusingthe criminalizathinking
tion of real-lifefemalehusbandsas cheatsand vagrants,with
a wished-for
criminalization
ofthepubliclibertiesofall crossOne thingis clear:Clelandwantsto crimdressingwomen?126
inalize passing women independentlyof mitigatingfactors
such as plebeianindustry
or the distinction
recognizedby his
between
the
of
imitation
the
sexed body by
contemporaries
womenwarriorsand passingworkersand theimitationofthe
sexual body by femalehusbands.127 In the end, however,it
was Fielding'sterminology
forpassingwomenwho married
otherwomenthatcaughton, and, withthe phraseology,his
notion,based on the factsof Hamilton'strial,thatit was a
ofa man in marriage,
when
plebeianwoman'ssexualimitation
126Or was Cleland thinkingof Renaissance precedent?Scholarshipon Renaissance punishmentsof passingwomen is divided. Lisa Jardinehas written,in the
contextof Elizabethansumptuarylegislation,of the Puritan'pamphleteers'insistence thatmasculinedress in women is equivalentto role transgression',
and, like
Cleland, thesepamphleteersdid cite Deuteronomy:see herStillHarpingon Daughters: Womenand Drama in theAge of Shakespeare(Brighton,1983), 160, but,
accordingto StephenOrgel,Englishsumptuarylaws did not proscribecross-gender
dress: see his Impersonations:
The Performance
of Genderin Shakespeare'sEngland
(Cambridge, 1996), 96-8. As forecclesiasticalcourts,accordingto David Cressy,
'the Church was less concerned that theyhad violated the sanctionsof Deuterand Transonomythan thattheirbehaviourprovokeddisorder':see his Travesties
112.
gressions,
127 Cleland mayalso be responding
to theunsystematic
applicationoflaws- such
For an accountofinconsistency
as those againstvagrancy- to sexual impropriety.
in thepolicingofprostitutes,
see Henderson,Disorderly
Womenin Eighteenth-Century
London,ch. 5.

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170

PASTANDPRESENT

NUMBER
180

she 'livedwithher[wife]as herHUSBAND'


(p. 27), thatdeserved
criminalization.128

VI
CONCLUSION:

SEXUAL MIMICRY

I have arguedin thisarticlethat,withoutpossessingtheintersexualanatomyofa tribadeorhermaphrodite,


femalehusbands
were thoughtto expressan autonomous,same-sexdesireas
themalesexualbodyand appropriated
both
theyimpersonated
thesexualand thesocialroleofmenin thedomesticrelation.It
of sex, sexuality,class and social
is thus at the intersection
standingthatwomenwarriorsand femalehusbandspartcompany.The femalehusbandwas viewedas much morethan a
femesolein male dress,likeherwarriorsister:she was seen as a
sortof artificial
tribadeand a 'feme-baron'
as well.As a result,
the criminalpenaltieslevelledagainstfemalehusbands(their
in local
commitment
to hardlabourand corporalpunishment
for
to
redefine
even
functioned
bridewells, example)
potentially
an industrious'feme-baron'
as a disorderlyvagrantor cheat
deservingof correction,
effectively
crossingclass law withthe
notonlydenied
sexualsubjectionofwomen.129This redefinition
the adequacy of a typeof lesbian sexual practice;it defined
of genderroles (and anatomicalsex) preawaythe ambiguity
in
sented the accountsof some passingplebeianwomenand
of'Certainty'(barring
theuse of
replaceditwitha presumption
a dildo)at thecritical
momentofsexualcongress.130For passing
not male morphology,
was made
women,then,male virility,
the courtof last resortforthe reassertionof the anatomical

128In addition to the


uses of the phrase 'female husband'
eighteenth-century

and EccentricMuseum,6 vols.


already cited, see: R. S. Kirby,Kirby'sWonderful
ii, 125;
(London, 1803-20), iii, 414; Knapp and Baldwin, CriminalChronology,
Times,17 Jan. 1829, 3; Anon., TheExtraordinary
Investigation
of... a Man, Called
Eliza or Lavinia Edwards (n.p., 1833), 9; WeeklyDispatch,15 Apr. 1838, 175;
Anon., Curiosities
(London, 1871), 119.
ofStreetLiterature
129Contrastthis with the argumentof David Cressy,who interpretslate sixteenth-and earlyseventeenth-century
recordsto suggestthatcross-dressing
raised
questions of 'social discipline' and 'disorder' to the exclusionof homoeroticand
and Transgressions,
112.
genderissues: see his Travesties
130
[Cleland], Case ofCatherineVizzani,8.

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

171

distinction
betweenthesexes,and thesocialdistinction
between
thegenders.131
It is in thiswaythatthemale sexualbody- thebody as it
in sexualrelations- playeda role in the social
is manifested
Britain.It
regulationof genderand class in eighteenth-century
and
maywellbe thatit was the combinationof cross-dressing
lesbiansexualitythatwas mostexplosiveto eighteenth-century
as severalscholarshave argued;but evenso, ofsuch
observers,
behavioursas passingas a man, romanticfriendship,
female
and lesbiansexualactivity,
none on itsownwas ordiintimacy
action.Rather,femalehusbands
narilytheobjectofdisciplinary
appear to have been singledout forsocial stigmaand, often,
becausetheyrepresented
criminalpunishment
thepossibility
of
a woman'srivalling
imitation
ofa man outsidethejustifications
The distinction
betweencross-dressing
ofplebeianindustry.
subnot
so
thus
arises
much
because
female
husbands
were
groups
fromotherpassing-women
workers
verydifferent
(actually,their
socialstatus,occupationalchoicesand evenromanticentanglementswerelargelythesame),butbecauseofan ongoingdifferworkersin termsof industry
and
entiationof passing-women
on
the
one
and
an
differentiation
of
hand,
criminality,
emerging
themin termsof lesbianand non-lesbiandisguisemotives,on
the other.As a consequence,the figureof thefemalehusband
comes bothto shadowtoleratedformsof plebeiansexual disbycontrast,
guise(as theirunacceptableface),and to reinforce,
liberties
takenbywomenwarriors
and otherindusthetolerated
triouspassingplebeianwomen.And itis thusin partto buttress
the legitimacyof theirheroines'otheractionsthat so many
narrative
accountsofplebeianmale impersonation
reassuringly
stagethefailureofat leastone 'impossible'amourbetweenthe
impostorand anotherwoman.132
someoftheimplications
ofthe
I willconcludebyconsidering
oflesbianismin eighteenthpresentstudyforan understanding
of
Britain.First,attempts
to chroniclethedevelopment
century
131 Thus of JohnHilliard it was judged that'nothingbeingwantingto immitate
[she] behav[ed] herselfin all
[sic] her contrarySex but the Night-Performances,
Points,(exceptthat) as likea Natural Man, as could possiblybe imagined':Anon.,
Maid Cheated,4.
Uufortunate
132Snell, forexample,afteractingas an 'artfulintendedBridegroom'and agreeing to marrya woman, assumes that 'therewas nothingmore to be done forthe
Preventionofa Discovery,but to takeherimmediateFlight':Anon.,FemaleSoldier,
129, 131.

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172

PAST AND PRESENT

NUMBER 180

of thoseroles) have
lesbiansocial roles (or the representation
for
female
husband
as
a
thresholdfigurein
yetto account the
fromearlymodemtomodemsexualities.
thetransition
Randolph
Trumbach,forexample,tracesa shiftfrombisexualto excluand argues
sivemodesoflesbianism
overtheeighteenth
century,
womenlivingin a
that'[f]emalehusbandswere . . . ordinary
of their
worldof bisexualdesire,forwhomthe circumstances
made womensexuallyavailable'.133As we have
cross-dressing
commentators
assumed
seen,however,someeighteenth-century
thatfemalehusbandshad a predilection
fortheloveofwomen,
and thatthisdesiredrovethemto artificial
devicessuchas male
garband dildoes(in theabsenceofan otherwise
willingfemale
partner).Moreover,severalofthesewomen,suchas Hamilton
and Vizzani,are describedas havinghad sexual desiresthat
wereorientedexclusively
towardsotherwomen.134
to
understand
thesexualityofthefemale
Secondly,attempts
husbandhavenot consideredall thewaysin whichshe latched
on to the formsof domesticconnectionand sexualplaytolerated amongpassing-women
workers.RudolfDekkerand Lotte
van de Pol, forexample,arguethatcross-dressing
solveda psythese
women:
'Women
who fellin
chologicalproblemfacing
lovewithotherwomen... oftendoubtedtheirgender,and the
traditionof femalecross-dressing
offeredthemthe solution
of "changingintoa man"'.135But the role of the meritorious
worker- manyof whomupheldtheirsexual
passing-woman
virtueas womenevenas theycourtedorlivedwithotherwomen
to furthertheirdisguise- offeredworking-class
lesbians a
to enjoythesexualcompanyofother
respectablewayas women
womenbyblendingin witha customary
practicein theircommunities.Numerouspopular ballads, broadsidesand chapbooks aboutpassing-women
workersand, of course,
warriors,
husbandscertainly
made knowledgeofsuchpossibilities
widely
her pre-existing
lesbian
available.'36Ratherthan mystifying
133RandolphTrumbach, 'Review Essay: The Origin and Developmentof the
Modem Lesbian Role in theWesternGenderSystem:Northwestern
Europe and the
UnitedStates,1750-1990', Historical
xx (1994), 297.
/Rflexionshistoriques,
Reflections
134For example,[Cleland], Case ofCatherineVizzani,3, 18-19, 28.
135Dekkerand van de Pol, Tradition
inEarlyModemEurope,
ofFemaleTransvestism
Sex in Eighteenth-Century
69-70; see also Hitchcock,'Redefining
England', 196.
136On the 'homoeroticinnuendo' in femalewarriorballads, see Dianne Dugaw,
'Mary Lacy's Ladies', Center
fortheStudyof Womenin SocietyRev. (1993), 9. Anna
Clarkhas foundevidence,in the earlynineteenth-century
journalsofthewell-born
(cont.onp. 173)

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GENDER'S TWO BODIES

173

desiresin termsofheterosexual
then,a labouring
masculinity,
could easilyhavefunctioned
as a cover
woman'scross-dressing
forother
of,hersexualpreference
for,and de factolegitimation
or wivesdid notknowor object,
women,as longas girlfriends
or suspicious,intolerant
intervene.
neighbours
Finally,thesexualimitationascribedto thefemalehusbands
commentators
and reporters
byeighteenth-century
closelyparallels thatofa complementary
male figureeighteenth-century
thecross-dressing
homosexualknownas a molly.Likethemolly,
thefemalehusbandwas thoughtto emulateas wellas rivalher
sexual competitorsby impersonating
them. Edward Ward
describedthe molliesas men who 'fancythemselves
Women'
whileat thesame timemakinga 'ScoffofthelittleEffeminacy,
and Weaknesses,whichWomen are subjectto'.137 As I have
of
arguedelsewhere,withregardto the sexualimpersonations
themollies,emulationand mockery
aretwomodesofimitation,
and can be linkedto Platonicanxietiesaboutmimesisas theiteration of anotherperson'sspeech and action.138
By embracing
femalehusbands,like the mollies,seemed to
impersonation,
observersto challengenot onlyspecificsexual types,but the
verynotionofsexualtypology.
Althoughthepresentstudyhas
(n. 136 cont.)

Anne Lister, of an individualwho constructedher identityin part by reading,


of lesbianismin
throughthe 'lens' of 'her own lesbian desire',the representations
classicalliterature:
Anna Clark,'Anne Lister'sConstructionofLesbian Identity',in
Phillipsand Reay (eds.), Sexualitiesin History,254. There is no reason to assume
thatplebeian lesbiansdid not respondin a similarlyinventivefashionto the widely
disseminatedrepresentation,in their own culturalsphere, of the availabilityof
otherwomento plebeianfemalecross-dressers.
137[EdwardWard], TheHistoryoftheLondonClubs:or, TheCitizens[sic]Pastime,
2 vols. (London, 1709), ii, 5, 6. Significantly,
femalehusbands were sometimes,
like the mollies, presentedas hatingthe opposite sex. In Anon., Sappho-anone
such woman assertsthat'sincerelymanI hate' (p. 33). When hostilecommentators
wished to attack the genteel Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby,the so-called
ladies of Llangollen,theyreportedthatthe women 'bear a strangeantipathyto the
male sex', even as 'Miss Butler . . . appears in all respects as a young man':
St. James'sChron.:or,British
EveningPost,17-20 July1790. In contrast,in Cleland's
Memoirsofa WomanofPleasure,thenon-cross-dressing
Phoebe,althoughshe seduces
Fanny,and mayeven have a 'secretbyass' towardsbisexuality,is carefullydifferentiatedfroma molly:it is 'not thatshe hated men,or did not evenpreferthemto her
own sex' (ed. Sabor, 12), but lack of male attentionthatcompelsher to dailywith
otherwomen.
138FraserEaston, 'ChristopherSmart'sCross-Dressing:Mimicry,Depropriation,
and JubilateAgno', Genre,xxxi (1998), 213 and passim.Intriguingly,
the actress
CharlotteCharkewritesof mockingmen and masculinityin both her on- and offsee herA NarrativeoftheLifeofMrs. Charlotte
Charke,2nd edn
stagecross-dressing:
(London, 1755), 17-18 and passim.

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174

NUMBER 180

PAST AND PRESENT

on cross-dressing
women
a newperspective
focusedon offering
thatI hope willalso
and working-class
life,it is a perspective
encouragenew linesofenquiryintothesexualityofthefemale
of her challengeto sexual
husband,the social ramifications
with the mimetic
and
her
affinity
intriguing
representation,
libertiesofthemolly.
University
ofWaterloo

FraserEaston

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