It takes a strong woman to face a world that doesn’t value her gender. Some are strong enough to make the world see her, to value her. Historical labels for those who were born one gender but identified as another included monstrous, perverse, or insane. We may never know their truth. Only the tip of hidden history, this is an introduction to unconventional women of history no one taught you about.
December 1394 court records documented the arrest of Eleanor Rykener (also known as John Rykener) London during December 1394 for a sex act with a man while dressed as a woman. She wore women’s clothing and worked as an embroideress, prostitute, or barmaid. Records are incomplete. But to many Rykener was a trans-woman. Wikipedia has a short and fascinating article on Eleanor.
Mary Frith or Moll Cutpurse (c. 1584–1659), royalist, pick pocket, fence, and pimp, had a “boisterous and masculine spirit.” She wore britches, smoked a pipe, carried a sword, and drank in taverns. Learn about Moll.
The Chevalier d’Eon
Declared a boy at birth, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810) was the son of a minor aristocrat. His family secured him a position in civil service. He rose quickly through the ranks. Then he left France as a diplomat and a spy. When he returned to France, it was as a celebrity, a writer, and a woman. Was it a trick to save his life or his true gender? Read more about d’Eon.
Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876) was an American actress. Some described her as a woman of weird genius, somber imagination, great sensibility.
Jane Adams (1860-1935) was a social reformer and lesbian suffragist, social worker, activist, Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Alan L. Hart
Alan L. Hart (1890-1962), a radiologist, physician, tuberculosis researcher, and writer. Hart discovered how to use x-rays to detect tuberculosis. When he was born, doctors identified him as female and named Alberta Lucille Hart. Besides helping thousands with tuberculosis, he was one of the first female-to-male transgender persons to undergo a hysterectomy in the United States and lived the rest of his life as a man. Oregon Encyclopedia can tell you more about Hart.
Stormé DeLaverie (day-la-vee-ay) (1920-2014), was an entertainer, bouncer, activist, and drag king.
Look for Hidden History
The saying goes that the winner writes the history books. It’s up to us to uncover the hidden history, to learn from the truth, and to grow into better people and better nations. Strong women have been around since the dawn of time. Some of those strong women were unconventional women of history no one told you about. This is a short list. There are many, many more. It’s up to you to overcome prejudice, step out of your comfort zone, and learn. You might surprise yourself and admire some of these women.