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Tags: People/Event Tags - Historic Cross-Dressing and Gender Presentation

The purpose of tags is to make information relatively easy to find. The topics covered under “people/event tags” are historical persons, authors, written works, and other specific events, organizations, or works that are the subject of the research and publications covered by the Project. This essay is intended to explain briefly how the “people/event” tags are being used.

The second purpose is to provide a tag list that the visitor can use to explore the site. The number of tags used in the project, and the organization into four different categories, doesn’t lend itself to a traditional tag-cloud. The Place and Time Period tags each have a single essay. The Event/Person and Misc. Tags will be covered in thematic groups in multiple essays due to the larger number. Due to character restrictions on the attached tags, I've had to link to separate sub-posts to include linked tag-lists. This page brings together all the names and descriptions for this entire Person/Event tag category, but you'll need to click through to explore the linked articles.

I’m planning six essays for the People/Event Tags, each covering a general category with several subcategories.

  • Non-Fiction Sources and General Authors
  • Historic Crossdressing and Passing/Transgender People
  • Historic People Relevant for Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Literary Examples of Crossdressing or Gender Disguise
  • Literary Examples of Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Poetry Expressing Romantic or Sexual Relationships

This present essay covers the second category and includes the following:

  • Historic Crossdressing - Any instance of a woman (or someone assigned as female) wearing male-coded garments, either overtly or for the purpose of passing as male, that doesn't fall in one of the following more specific groups.
  • Military Crossdressing - As above, but specifically for the purpose of entering the military. (Sailors may fall in this or the previous group depending on the nature of the service.)
  • Female Husband - As defined for "historic crossdressing" but where a person living as male enters into marriage or a marriage-like relationship with a woman. This category includes some individuals who could be interpreted as trans men.
  • Passing/Trans - As defined for "historic crossdressing" but where there is significant evidence for an alternate interpretation as a trans man, but where marriage is not a core element of the story.
  • Transvestite Saint - Any instance (either historic or fictionalized--I've lumped them together) where the motivation for passing as male is to enter a religious profession restricted to men or to escape a heteronormative life in order to pursue a religious vocation. In the latter case, the cross-dressing may be temporary and the religious profession may be entered as a woman. I've kept the label "transvestite saint" that is used in the literature, although in general I've avoided the word "transvestite" as outdated and carrying implications of identity rather than behavior.

These are not hard-and-fast categories and my assignment is based mostly on "will this grouping be useful to the reader?" The tags for crossdressed literary characters will have slightly different subgroups.

Cross-dressing, in and of itself, is not automatically related to love between women, and the concept covers people with a wide range of motivations, experiences, and gender identities. (And although the label I'm using talks about "dressing", it also covers behaviors or other topics that are involved in communicating gender categories to an observer.) Touching back to the purpose of the Project, this is a substantial topic because it offers significant tools for creating contexts for historic characters to discover, recognize, and express female homoeroticism. Within that purpose, what matters most is the "toolbox" that these examples map out, rather than some abstract historic "truth" about their lives. This is why I've cast a wide net.

Women sometimes passed as men in order to enter a gender-restricted sphere, whether for economic reasons or philosophical ones. Pre-modern society didn't even pretend to the concept of equal pay for equal work. The same work would be compensated much higher if performed by a man, and that's before considering entire professions restricted to men, such as Christian religious hierarchies (for much of history). Sometimes it was practical (including for personal safety against gendered violence) or whimsical. Sometimes it was symbolic--a way to stake a claim to privileges normally restricted to men. Sometimes a person that society categoriezed as female chose to live in the world as a man for reasons of personal identity. And sometimes a woman lived as a man because it as the easiest(!) way to openly enjoy a romantic and sexual relationship with another woman, and certainly it was almost always the only way to formalize that relationship as a marriage.

It can be difficult to tell what the motivation of a specific historic person was, although some records give more evidence than others. Even when a reason is recorded, it must be understood in the context of what options were available at the time, both in terms of the available concepts and the practical options for solving specific challenges. For that reason, my classification into subgroupings and the language I use to talk about these people should be understood as a way of organizing a rather diverse set of data, and not a final judgement on how to interpret specific lives. When there seems to be substantial evidence for a transgender interpretation, I have tried to reflect that in my descriptions in an inclusive way.

Historic Crossdressing

  • Almira Paul - 19th century Canadian woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Anne Bonny - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed during a career in piracy.
  • Charley Parkhurst - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a stagecoach driver.
  • Countess Amalie of Bavaria - 19th century German woman who wore trousers for horseback and hunting.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine - 12th century Queen of England said to have cross-dressed to escape her husband in disguise.
  • Elizabeth Emmons - 19th c American woman who passed as a man for economic purposes.
  • Ellen Craft - 19th century American woman who escaped slavery with her husband by disguising herself as a white man.
  • Ellen Stephens - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to pursue an absent husband.
  • Elsa Jane Guerin (Mountain Charley) - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Emma Cole - 18th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Empress Elisabeth I of Russia - 18th century Empress of Russian who held cross-dressed masques.
  • Hannah Cullwick - 19th century English woman who dressed across gender and class boundaries for political performance art.
  • Hildegard of Swabia - 8th century Frankish woman, wife of Charlemagne, said to have cross-dressed as a man for an extended period to escape a false accusation.
  • Isabelle Gunn - 18th century Scottish woman who cross-dressed for a career as a sailor.
  • Krakow university student -15th century Polish woman who passed as a man in order to study at Krakow University.
  • Loreta Janeta Velazquez - 19th century Cuban woman who cross-dressed to accompany her male lover in the miliary.
  • Lucy Ann Lobdell - 19th century American frontier woman who cross-dressed for practical and preference but with no intention of passing.
  • Lucy Brewer - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to escape prostitution via a career as a sailor.
  • Madeleine Moore - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to accompany her male lover in the military, unrecognized by him.
  • Maritgen Jans/David Jans - 17th century Dutch woman who tried unsuccessfully to enlist in male disguise, but kept the disguise to earn higher wages.
  • Mary Anne Arnold - 19th century English woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor for economic resons.
  • Mary Read - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed sometimes in the context of a career in piracy.
  • Schinderhannes (wife of) - 18th century German woman who participated in her husband’s bandit gang cross-dressed as a man.
  • Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann - 18th century German poet who cross-dressed for safety while traveling.
  • Théroigne de Méricourt - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed openly as a symbol of women’s right to public participation in government.
  • Trijin Jurriaens of Hamburg - 17th century German woman who cross-dressed sporadically as part of a criminal career that included becoming engaged to a woman to defraud her.

Historic Cross-Dressing: Military

There are extensive records of women passing as men to enter the military, including many who were only discoverd after death. The individuals listed here only scratch the surface. In some cases, the cross-dressing was done openly to invoke male military authority (as for Jeanne d'Arc) rather than as a disguise.

  • Angélique Marie Josèphe Brulon - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the army.
  • Anna Lühring - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Anne Jane Thornton - 19th century Irish woman who cross-dressed to serve in ihe military.
  • Antoinette Berg - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to join an English regiment in the Netherlands against France.
  • Catharin Rosenbrock of Hamburg - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Catherine Louise Vignot - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Christian Davies - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed to enlist in search of her husband.
  • De Bredashe Heldinne - Fictionalized biography of 18th century Dutch woman Maria van Antwerpen (q.v.).
  • Deborah Sampson (Robert Shurtleff) - 18th century American woman who cross-dressed to serve in the army.
  • Duchess of Chevreuse - 17th century French woman who cross-dressed to take a military role.
  • Duchess of Longueville - 17th century French woman who cross-dressed to escape prison in the context of military service.
  • Eleonore Prochaska - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Félicité and Théophile Fernigh - 18th century French women who openly cross-dressed to serve in the French National Guard.
  • Francoise Després - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Hannah Snell - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed to serve in the army. After discovery she became something of a celebrity icon.
  • Hendrik van de Berg - Woman in 1660s Netherlands who joined the army in male disguise at the urging of another woman who did so.
  • Isabella Geelvinck - 17th century German woman who worked cross-dressed as a military cook.
  • Jeanne d’Arc - 15th century French woman who cross-dressed openly for the purpose of taking a military leadership role. Her trial testimony indicates she may have had a non-binary identity.
  • Madame Montpensier - 17th century French woman who cross-dressed to take a military role.
  • Madame Poncet - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the army.
  • Maria van Antwerpen/Jan van Ant - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military in the Netherlands.
  • Mary Anne Talbot - 18th century English woman, forced to accompany her husband in the military in disguise as a man.
  • Phoebe Hessel - 18th century English woman who initially cross-dressed to accompany her father in the army, then entered a combat role.
  • Princess of Condé - 17th century French woman who openly cross-dressed to take a military leadership role.
  • Renée Bordereau - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Rosalie von Bonin - 18th century German woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.
  • Sarah Emma Edmonds - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed for military service.
  • Thérèse Figueur - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the army.
  • Trijntje Simons/Simon Poort - Woman who cross-dressed to join the military (18th c?, Netherlands) and received full military honors at death.
  • Vicomtesse Turpin de Crissé - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed to serve in the military.

Historic Cross-Dressing: Female Husband

Living as a man (in whatever profession) created the potential for romantic or erotic encounters with women, and this naturally led to marriage in many cases. It is not knowable (and perhaps not always meaningful) whether they would identify today as transgender, or whether passing as a man was a deliberate strategem to enjoy a same-sex relationship, or whether marriage was simply seen as a part of the "disguise". The cases where we know details off the motivations cover a broad territory.

  • Barbara Hill (John Brown) - 18th century English person born Barbara Hill and living as a man (John Brown) recorded as having married a woman who continued the relationship after the matter became public.
  • Henri Estienne - 16th century French writer who recorded the trial an execution of an (unnamed) assigned-female person who was discovered living as a man, married to a woman.
  • Ilsabe Bunkens - 17th century German woman who passed as a man and twice married a woman.
  • Jeanne Bonnet - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed (possibly overtly?) and living in a committed relationshp with a woman whom she’d persuaded to leave prostitution.
  • John Chivy - 18th century English person living as a man, discovered after death to have female anatomy. John was married to a woman for 20 years.
  • Journal of Montaigne’s Travels in Italy by Way of Switzerland and Germany (Michel de Montaigne) - Travel journal describing a 16th century incident in Switzerland where a group of women together started living as men. One married a woman.
  • Katherina Hetzeldorfer - German 15th century person assigned-female who lived as a man, including traveling with a women identified as wife. Trial records for various gender-transgression and sexual assault issues include details of sexual activity.
  • Milton Matson - 19th c American, assigned-female, arrested for passing as a man and being betrothed to a woman with an implied sexual relatoinship.
  • Sarah Paul (Samuel Bundy) - 18th century English woman who passed as a man for economic reasons and married a woman who was aware of the disguise and who, after some legal quarrels, chose to continue living with her after public discovery.
  • The Female Husband (Henry Fielding) - 18th century fictionalized biography of the real-life Mary Hamilton. In the fiction, Hamilton was seduced by a woman but after being abandoned by her, began living as a man and had several sexual relationships with women, including marriage in some cases.

Historic Cross-Dressing: Passing/Transgender

This group collects non-military cases where marriage was not a defining aspect of the individual's story (although some of them did marry women), and where there are significant transgender aspects to the person's story.

  • Anne Grandjean - An 18th century French woman who, when she confessed to a priest that she was in love with a woman, was told that it meant she must actually be a man. Anne lived as a man for a while and married a woman, but later the authorities changed their mind about her.
  • Catalina de Erauso - A 17th century Basque person, assigned female, who fled a convent and lived as a man, including spending time in the military in the New World. Late in life, Catalina was given Papal permission to continue living as a man.
  • Chevalière d'Eon - A 17th century French person who lived variously as a man and as a woman at different times. D’Eon was, by some, believed to be properly assigned as female, and so returning to “proper gender” after passing as a man. Post-mortem examination revealed d’Eon to be physiologically male.
  • Des Hermaphrodits (Jacques Duval) - A French (1612) medical treatise that discusses cases on the lesbian/transgender intersection.
  • Elena/Eleno de Céspedes - 16th century Spanish person, assigned female, who began living as a man at ca. 18 years of age and at one point received a court ruling of male status, allowing Eleno to marry a woman. This was later reversed with ensuing complications.
  • Ellen Tremayne/Edward De Lacy Evans - 19th century Irish immigrant to Australia, assigned female, who lived as a man in Australia, including marrying three women.
  • Henrikje Verschuur - 18th century Dutch woman, impatient with female social roles who cross-dresses, enlists in the army, and enjoys sexual relations with various women who are aware of the disguise.
  • James Miranda Barry - 19th century Irish person, assigned female, (Margaret Ann Bulkley) who lived as a man to study medicine and continued as such until death.
  • Medicinal Dictionary (Robert James) - 18th century medical text that discusses cases of women living as men or having sexual relations with women.

Historic Cross-Dressing: “Transvestite Saints”

The biographies of the "transvestite saints" of the early Christian era were almost certainly highly fictionalized, although they accurately depicted some of the struggles around gender in the early church. More interesting are the medieval women whose lives echo those earlier fictions. I've grouped them together because of this thematic similarity  even though the early legends more properly belong in the "literary" category.

  • Agnes of Monçada - 15th century Spanish(?) woman who cross-dressed as a man to life as a holy hermit. Her story is similar to the semi-fictional biographies of “transvestite saints” from the early Christian era.
  • Angela of Bohemia - 12th century sister of King Ottokar I of Bohemia who fled an unwanted marriage in male disguise and became a nun. Her story is similar to some semi-fictional saints lives from the early Christian era.
  • Christina of Markyate - 12th century English woman who cross-dressed to flee an unwanted marriage and became a nun. Her story is similar to some semi-fictional saints biographies of the early Christian era.
  • Juana de la Cruz - 15th century Spanish woman who cross-dressed to flee an unwanted marriage and became a nun. Her story is similar to some semi-fictional saints biographies of the early Christian era.
  • Pope Joan - Legend of a 9th century woman who cross-dressed to take up a (male) religious profession and eventually became pope but was discovered when she gave birth. The legend has some similarities to the “transvestite saint” genre.
  • Saint Anastasia - 5th century Byzantine/Egyptian saint said to have cross-dressed to join her husband in a monastery.
  • Saint Athanasia of Antiochia - 9th century Syrian saint who cross-dressed to live as a holy hermit.
  • Saint Eugenia - 3rd century Roman saint said to have cross-dressed to become a monk and later abbot. Her disguise was uncovered when a woman accused Eugenia of fathering her child.
  • Saint Euphrosyne - 5th century Egyptian saint who cross-dressed to enter a monastic life under the name Smaragdus.
  • Saint Hildegund von Schönau - 12th century German woman. As a child, she was dressed as a boy for safety when accompanying her father on pilgrimage and later retained the disguise to become a monk. Her story parallels those of the more fictional “transvestite saints” of the early Christian era.
  • Saint Margaretha - Mentioned as a cross-dressing saint, but I haven’t found further details. This is not the most famous Saint Margaret (of Antioch). Possibly the same as Saint Pelagius.
  • Saint Marina - Egyptian saint (no date give, almost certainly entirely fictional) who was raised as a boy in order to accompany her father when he entered a monastery. She became a monk in turn. When accused of fathering a woman’s child, she left the monastery to help raise the child.
  • Saint Pelagius - 4/5th century Egyptian saint (probably apocryphal). Her story begins as Margaret, a courtesan who, after she converted and was renamed Pelagia, cross-dressed under the name Pelagius to become an ascetic monk.
  • Saint Thecla - Roman woman converted by Saint Paul to whom he gave the authority to preach after she baptizes herself and puts on male clothing.
  • Saint Theodora - 4/5th century Egyptian legend of a woman who (among other adventures) cross-dressed to enter a monastery and was exiled when accused of fathering a child, whom she then raised. (There is also a legend of a 4th century Egyptian Saint Theodora who briefly exchanged clothes with a man to escape prostitution. These may be versions of the same legend.)