Thursday, June 3, 2010

Intrepid women of 1811 & 1812

Thursday, June 3, 2010
Loretta reports:

Romance writers are often accused of allowing their heroines to behave in ways "real" women of the time wouldn't have done.  The female disguised as a male is one example.  Yet we know it happened.  Women didn't always get away with it—but they did believe they could.   The duel described below speaks, I think, for itself—and don't we all want to know what they were fighting about.  The illustrations are not of the time.  Alas, I couldn't find any.  If you can, please give us a link.

SINGULAR CIRCUMSTANCE.—A singular circumstance occurred on board the ship Regalia, in the harbour of Portsmouth, a short time since.— The Captain (Palmer) had two apprentices sent him from London, by the owners, both of whom were regularly bound, and had been on board some time. One of them fell overboard in the harbour, and was with much difficulty got on board the ship; when the supposed lad proved to be a young girl about sixteen years of age! She said she had procured a living near London, by working in the fields; but disliking the employment, and without a character to recommend her to any housekeeper's employment, she was induced to pass herself off as a young lad, wishing to go to sea, when she was regularly bound to serve as an apprentice to the owners of the Regalia. The crew handsomely subscribed to rig her out with female clothing, and she is for the present under the notice of the Hon. Mrs. Grey.

La Belle assemblée: or, Bell's court and fashionable magazine, Volume 5. Publisher J. Bell, 1812


FEMALE DUELLING.—The famous duel between two French ladies, occasioned by mutual jealousy of each other, is no longer without a parallel. We must, however, enter our protest against the practice ; for should it become general, the hearts of the rougher sex may be exposed, first to a fatal glance from n love-sick fair, and ultimately to a fatal bullet from an angry one. The following is the story as given in the Newspapers:—"A curious report is in circulation in the fashionable world. Two ladies in high life having had a dispute at the Prince's fete, a challenge actually ensued, and the parties proceeded to Kensington Gardens, with their female seconds, who took with them a brace of pistols each, in their ridicules. The seconds having charged, by mistake put in the balls first. The Amazons afterwards took their ground, but missed fire, when their difference was adjusted by the interference of their mutual friends."

From La Belle assemblĂ©e: or, Bell's court and fashionable magazine, Volume 4.  Publisher  J. Bell, 1811


Radu Prisacaru - UK Internet Marketer said...
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Mrs Woffington said...

This subject is very interesting; I'm currently reading a book called The Lady Tars which consists of 3 first-person narratives of the lives of lady sailors: Hannah Snell, Mary Lacy and Mary Anne Talbot (Snell is a bit earlier but you can find images of her in Naval dress on Google). Stories of lady cross-dressers were, of course, titillating subjects in the 18th/early 19th centuries, though there's no doubt that these women did actually exist. Thanks for a lovely post!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Another woman who dressed (and passed) as a man to serve in the military was Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) Hardened by fieldwork as an indentured servant, Deborah was tall (5'7"), and in 1782, she enlisted in the Continental Army, dressed and named as a man. She served honorably for 18 months, and when wounded, tended her own wound to hide her gender. Finally, though, when she was hospitalized with a fever, a physician discovered her secret. She was honorably discharged, and received a military pension for her service.

She's also an official heroine of the State of Massachusetts:

Ms. VG said...

I adore the description of that duel - particularly the detail of the girls bringing the pistols to the duel in their purses! They must either have been very small pistols or very large reticules...

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

fascinating, the idea of two women duelling. I would love to see that in a romance novel or historical fiction.

Pauline said...

Great post. Thank you for pointing up the fiction aspect as well. I personally get peeved when I find an author falling back on a time travelling modern woman in order to ensure a "strong female lead" in their historical fiction.

From Jeanne d'Arc to Rose de Freyscinet to Elizabeth Bowden to all the intrepid women already mentioned, there is no shortage of real gutsy, real life historical ladies.

We do them all, named and nameless, a grave disservice by dismissing them as "not real".

nightsmusic said...

I'm with Elizabeth. What a great scenario for a novel. Dueling heroines!

There were a couple of women who served in the Civil War disguised as men as well but for the life of me right now, I can't think of their names.

(on a side note, do you suppose they pay these spammers to make ridiculous comments on blogs to bypass the capcha program? I've had that happen a number of times now)

LorettaChase said...

I did wonder about the size of the pistols and/or the reticules. I've seen tiny pistols in books, but they wouldn't qualify as dueling pistols, and IIRC, they were very far from accurate. Elizabeth, I vividly recall an Amanda Quick story in which two women were going to duel. They met as planned, but ended up having a discussion instead. It was delightful! And thank you ladies for providing real names & dates! I'm deeply ashamed for not knowing that Samson was my state heroine.

Anonymous said...

I think it's another problem of whitewashing history to Anglo-Saxon standards that no woman before the 1950's was ever widely accomplished. Oh, no, lady philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, doctors, authors must have been rare, and not a product of mistakenly attributed success to male contemporaries or written off in death after a lifetime struggle to be taken seriously as a female. We have too many modern examples of the Matilda Effect to ignore its role throughout history.

Marleen said...
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StitchWitch said...

To begin, I just found your blog, absolutely love it.

I've written a couple stories set in the past, none published. But I often work really hard to keep my characters in their time periods. I have one character in particular that those who have read my stories, say seems to be weak, but she's strong and uses as much power as she can for the fact that she lives in the 1190s.

But this is right, sometimes there are "modern women" in in historical fiction which completely ruins the story. I have had a couple female duels though, among outlaws and pirates....

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