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Gender-Queer Historic Motif Project: 81a Krimmer 2004 - In the Company of Men: Cross-Dressed Women Around 1800 (Introduction)

Full citation: 

Krimmer, Elisabeth. 2004. In the Company of Men: Cross-Dressed Women Around 1800. Wayne State University Press, Detroit. ISBN 0-8143-3145-9

Publication summary: 

A study of cross-dressed women (or trans men) in history and literature in 18-19th century Germany and surrounding cultures. Most of the summary for this work is provided by guest-blogger Rose Fox.


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(blogged by Heather Rose Jones)

Krimmer’s primary focus is on the motif of cross-dressing women in 18th century German literature (novels, plays, etc.), but as part of the background, she reviews a great many historic cases. The issues of theory that are covered in these opening parts of Krimmer’s work, with the complexities of gender theory and clothing as signifiers of all manner of social classifications, are thoroughly covered in the analysis of chapters 2-5. The present summary is simply a rough catalog of the examples she cites.

1721 in Halberstadt, Germany – Catharina Lincken charged for wearing men’s clothing. Three different male aliases are listed, under which she served as a soldier at various times. Her transgressions also included switching back and forth between Catholicism and Lutheranism. She married a woman named Catharina Mühlhahn.

Court theatrics and masquerades in which women dressed as men (and sometimes vice versa) were held under Empress Elisabeth I of Russia (1741-62) and Princess Amalie of Hessen-Homburg (1774-1846).

Examples are cataloged under several headings:


  • (no date) The wife of the bandit Schinderhannes participated in his robberies in male dress.
  • (no date) Trijin Jurriaens of Hamburg (see Dekker & van de Pol 1989 for details)
  • (no date) Isabe Bunkens (see Dekker & van de Pol 1989 for details)
  • 1643, Germany - Isabella Geelvinck worked as a cook for a military regiment for 10 years
  • Mary Frith aka Moll Cutpurse (1584-1659) gained fame when her life was put on stage in The Roaring Girl
  • 1720 – The cross-dressing pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read were captured and tried.

Religious Figures

  • Legends of cross-dressing saints: Thecla, Pelagia, Marina, Hildegund, Athanasia of Antiochia, Margaretha
  • Joan of Arc
  • Pope Joan

Travel and Leisure

  • Lady Mary Montague wore men’s clothing while traveling abroad
  • Queen Christina of Sweden traveled in men’s clothing using the name “Count Dohna” after abdicating in 1654.
  • The poet Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann wore men’s clothing while traveling.
  • The German courtesan Maria Anna Steinhaus wore men’s clothing while traveling and hunting.
  • Countess Amalie of Bavaria wore trousers for hunting.


  • Hannah Snell served in the British army as a man.
  • Angélique Brulon was a soldier in Napoleon’s army and continued to serve after discovery, as did Thérèse Figueur (1774-1861).
  • German women who had military careers in the Low Countries in male guise included Maria van Antwerpen (aka Jan van Ant) (1719-1781) and Catharin Rosenbrock of Hamburg.
  • 1799 – A German woman, Antoinette Berg, joined an English regiment fighting the French in the Netherlands, after which she joined the navy and traveled to the Caribbean.


After women began to take up theatrical roles, it became a fashion for certain types of male roles to be habitually played by female actors, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Hamlet. A long list of actresses became known for playing trouser roles in the 18th century and later.

Time period: 

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