“Transing” Gender in the 19th Century: Female Husbands and Their Wives

Those assigned female who “transed” gender, lived as men, and married women in the eighteenth and nineteenth century US and UK were described as “female husbands.” They persisted in living as men despite tremendous risk, violence, and punishment. When husbands were outed as being assigned female, the press reported such accounts enthusiastically and frequently, exposing dynamic, contested, and varied stories of love, courage, and loss. Readers of all ages from nearly anywhere might learn about the lives of female husbands and their wives in their local paper, making them some of the earliest true queer pioneers. We will explore the meaning and usage of the phrase “female husband” as well as the changing terminology used over the years to describe people who lived gender variant lives and/or engaged in same-sex intimacies and relationships. We will examine historic newspapers rich resources for teaching a wide range of LGBTQ histories in the classroom.