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

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: 2011-05-30 06:48 pm (UTC)
sharpiefan: Tall ship, sailors in the rigging (Sailors aloft)
From: [personal profile] sharpiefan
As far as I'm aware, 'show a leg' was used in port when the ship was open to wives and sweethearts. When men were required to turn out for duty, the bosun's mates went through the berth-deck calling 'show a leg'. A woman's leg entitled its owner to stay in the hammock rather than getting turned out unceremoniously to go on watch.

And I think it's partly because the sailors of the time were so often barefoot; a woman wouldn't have the sort of dirty tar-stained feet of a sailor. (As well as likely having a more shapely leg).

Date: 2011-06-02 06:47 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Presumably the woman didn't actually want to be carried off to sea for the next six months, though, so f the boat were about to leave port it was useful to know about it.

There's a story about a fire breaking out at sea and four hitherto unknown women appearing, fighting the fire, and vanishing again when the danger had passed. So female stowaways do seem to have occurred, and looking up the etymology of the phrase "son of a gun" is also useful.


The Monstrous Regiment of Women

May 2011


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