bride_of_the_atom: (Default)
[personal profile] bride_of_the_atom posting in [community profile] monstrous_regiment
Hello,

I have a kind of latent fascination for women who presented themselves as men in order to join the armed forces (or other exclusively male circles) throughout history. I say "latent" fascination because I've never really been able to delve into the subject, but keep thinking that I'd like to whenever I hear or read about one of those women. Does anybody here know about good places to start? Books, webpages?

There's also a related thing that has had me wondering for some time. As far as I understand, women disguised as men weren't that enormously uncommon in the armies of, say, 16th to 19th century Europe, but very, very rare in the navies. Being a fan of naval fiction, I'm assuming that the crowded environment and lack of privacy made it considerably more difficult to hide one's physical gender aboard a ship. The question I was wondering if anybody can answer, though, is this: I've been told that "show a leg" originally meant literally that - an order to the seamen to stick one leg out of their hammocks so any disguised women among them could be found. To me, it seems improbable and rings of the contemporary delusion that women's bodies are hairless by nature. Does anybody have any interesting ideas, or even better, facts about this?

Date: 2011-06-02 06:18 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
O'Brien is very different from CS Forester, in my view on that side (after all, he doesn't just have the two little girls rescued from the smallpox island pressed into service as loblolly girls, he does actually have a female member of the crew in some of the later books, again as a surgeon's assistant). What Forester appears to do is project an early 20th century mindset (and the naval tradition going with it) back onto the 18th/early 19th century and other authors copy Forester. If you read Jane Austen, by contrast, you'll see that inferentially Mrs Croft must have been at sea during the battle of Trafalgar, and one can bet that she rolled up her sleeves and went down to assist the surgeon.

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The Monstrous Regiment of Women

May 2011

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