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Female Husbands


About the book

Long before people identified as transgender or lesbian, there were female husbands and the women who loved them. Female husbands - people assigned female who transed gender, lived as men, and married women - were true queer pioneers. Moving deftly from the colonial era to just before the First World War, Jen Manion uncovers the riveting and very personal stories of ordinary people who lived as men despite tremendous risk, danger, violence, and threat of punishment. Female Husbands weaves the story of their lives in relation to broader social, economic, and political developments in the United States and the United Kingdom, while also exploring how attitudes towards female husbands shifted in relation to transformations in gender politics and women's rights, ultimately leading to the demise of the category of 'female husband' in the early twentieth century. Groundbreaking and influential, Female Husbands offers a dynamic, varied, and complex history of the LGBTQ past.

About the author

Jen Manion is Associate Professor of History at Amherst College, Massachusetts, the author of Liberty's Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America (2015), and a lifelong LGBTQ rights advocate.


“In this painstakingly researched study, Jen Manion opens a window into a previously unseen dimension of the British and American past. Female Husbands explores the lives of people who transed gender, lived as men, and married women between the colonial period and World War I, situating them in the context of broader political and social developments including changing understandings of gender and women's rights. The book is a stunning and path breaking achievement.”

- Drew Faust, President Emeritus and the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor, Harvard University

Female Husbands combines intellectual rigor and impeccable historical research with sensitivity and even imagination to illuminate this fascinatingly varied cohort of gender rebels.”

- Emma Donoghue, author of Room and Akin

“Jen Manion offers a spectacular historical survey of people assigned female at birth who went on to live as men and marry women. In doing so, they demonstrate that contemporary attention to trans issues is just the tip of a vast, submerged legacy of gender variance, traversing both sides of the English-speaking transatlantic world, that stretches back hundreds of years. 

- Susan Stryker, author of Transgender History and The Transgender Studies Reader

“Jen Manion mines Anglo-American newspapers, books, and pamphlets and shows us how ‘female husbands’ confounded conceptions of sex, gender, and sexuality. An engaging account of the unruly history of ‘transing,’ and the surveillance of it, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”

- Joanne Meyerowitz, author of How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States

Sample chapter

Sample Chapter


Los Angeles Times

LGBTQ Nation

The Sunday Times

Times Higher Education



Rainbow Country - 3:30 mark

Global Maritime History

Windy City Times

Public Seminar

History Today

BBC History Magazine

Baltimore Out Loud

The Critic

Times Literary Supplement

Connecticut Public Library

The New Yorker

The Guardian

Los Angeles Review of Books

Literary Hub

Sex Out Loud podcast

Out in Jersey

Audiobook excerpts

Female Husbands


Blackwell's Virtual Festival

History Summit 2020

Author: Jen Manion

Publication: March 2020 / May 2021

Format: Hardback / Paperback

ISBN: 9781108483803 / 9781108718271

Female Husbands

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