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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hannah Snell

Most of the time, when men desert their wives, the women just get depressed for a while and then move on with their lives. But not Hannah Snell. Snell borrowed a suit of men's clothes from her brother-in-law and went out to find the deserter. She couldn't go as herself because the year was 1747 and at that point in British history, decent women weren't free to travel around unescorted.

When she couldn't find her husband (because he had been executed for committing murder), she went to a shipyard and joined the Royal Marines. It may not seem like a logical progression of events, but it appears from the way the story unfolds that Snell was an in-your-face woman.

In any case, she sailed with her unit to Lisbon and on to India, where she fought -- and was wounded -- in the battle of Devicotta. After two years in the service of the King, when Snell finally revealed her gender to her shipmates, they were so impressed with what a fine job she had done fooling them in very close quarters that they encouraged her to approach the Duke of Cumberland and request the pension she had earned as a sailor. So she did. And she got it.

Her story, entitled The Female Soldier, was published in two different editions and she made money for a while appearing on stage in her uniform demonstrating drills and singing sailor's ditties. But in the end she wound up marrying a couple more times and having a couple of sons, a pretty ordinary life for a woman who had already been to war. But in-your-face women make their own choices -- and few apologies.

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