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Female Husbands
A Trans History

$15.95 (T)

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  • Author: Jen Manion, Amherst College, Massachusetts
  • Date Published: May 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108718271

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Charts the rise and fall of female husbands from the 1740s to the 1910s in a clear and accessible way
    • Reveals key turning points in the history of gender and sexuality in the United States and United Kingdom
    • Draws on a diverse source base that includes all references to female husbands in US and British print culture
    Read more


    • Finalist, 2021 Lawrence W. Levine Award, Organization of American Historians

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… fascinating … extremely thought-provoking.' Christina Patterson, The Sunday Times

    '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, Massachusetts

    '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

    'Female Husbands is a treasure trove of historical insights.' Heike Bauer, Times Higher Education

    'Manion's triumph in Female Husbands is to treat with an openhanded and flexible approach a series of lives that resisted categories and flourished through ambiguity.' Karen Harvey, BBC History Magazine

    'A masterclass in historical rigour, empathy, and craft.' Catherine Baker, History Today

    'An altogether fresh and innovative take on centuries-old identities and relationships, Female Husbands shows its readers how the most forward-thinking and progressive conceptions of gender and sexuality can find their origins in the past.' Hannah Roche, The Times Literary Supplement

    'A detailed, synoptic history of a fascinating dimension of 18th- and 19th-century cultural history in Britain and the US.' Grace Lavery, The Guardian

    ‘… Manion’s approach to their subjects reminds readers that those who transed gender existed within a kind of heritage and tradition despite the seemingly singular and spectacular nature of their experiences. Indeed, Female Husbands challenges the spectacular framing of the titular husbands by contemporaneous material over and over, examining the shared tropes and cultural anxieties that animated these accounts so as to call their veracity into question. In doing so, Manion builds a framework for examining transness and narrative tropes surrounding transness both historically and in the modern day.’ Julia Ftacek, Global Maritime History

    ‘Female Husbands has been assembled from a wealth of firsthand historical research. The book includes a lengthy introduction, endnotes, an index, and a number of photos that illustrate everything from weddings to legal documents, all of which may be helpful to future researchers.’ Martha Miller, The Gay & Lesbian Review

    ‘Grounded in extensive archival research, this study by Manion (Amherst College) explores how the term ‘female husband’ - used to describe a person categorized as ‘female’ at birth but who occupied a social position as a (heterosexual) ‘man’ - went in and out of public use in the UK (1740–1840) and the US (1830–1910) … A clear, compelling, and compassionate text … Highly recommended.’ T. E. Adams, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108718271
    • length: 350 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: extraordinary lives
    Part I. UK Husbands, 1740–1840:
    1. The first female husband
    2. The pillar of the community
    3. The sailors and soldiers
    4. The wives
    Part II. US Husbands,1830–1910:
    5. The workers
    6. The activists
    7. The criminalized poor
    8. The end of a category
    Conclusion: sex trumps gender
    Epilogue: the first female-to-male transsexual.

  • Author

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


    • Finalist, 2021 Lawrence W. Levine Award, Organization of American Historians
    • Winner, 2021 Best Second Monograph in Victorian Studies, British Association for Victorian Studies Prize

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