Female transvestism in the 17th and 18th centuries

Two women dancing painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892, National Gallery Prague (© Wikimedia)

In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was not uncommon for poor, young women to try and pass as a man. Some became soldiers. Others achieved fame and some even married other women. It was illegal to impersonate a man, but they felt it was worth the risk. Chris Chambers talks to the author of a book on the subject and mixes it with journals, diary entries, songs and stories from the period.

The book in question, “Women who dressed as men”, was written by Erasmus University social historians Rudolf Dekker and Lotte Van de Pol and published in English and Dutch in 1989.  The book has also been translated into German, Spanish, Swedish and Japanese.

Producer: Chris Chambers

Broadcast: March 30, 1990