because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mary (“Moll Cutpurse”) Frith

When Mary Frith was just one of the children born into a poverty-stricken English family in the late 1500's, nobody paid much attention. Even when she got arrested for robbing people in crowds by cutting their purses and running away with the contents, she was still only one more thief in a country overrun with struggling poor folks. But when she started dressing in baggy breeches, swearing and smoking a pipe like a man, her behavior was considered scandalous enough to get plays written about her, one of which ("The Roaring Girl") survives today.

Called "dressing indecently," wearing men's clothing, especially while performing music on a stage as Frith liked to do, got her arrested and punished more aggressively than the thievery. After all, women who wore men's clothes in those days were assumed to be "sexually riotous and uncontrolled." Not to mention, in your face.

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