Thinking Outside the Corset!

220px-Bonney _Anne_(1697-1720)Andrea here, musing today on women in historical fiction who don’t behave as they are “supposed” to behave. Murder at Queen’s Landing, my new Wrexford & Sloane mystery releases on September 29th, and I have to confess, my women protagonists are not the sort who sit demurely in the drawing rooms of Mayfair, sipping tea and chatting about fashionable styles of ballgowns.

Nope—they’re out creating “good” trouble . . . dressing as men, using their heads as more than perches for extravagant bonnets, running profitable businesses . . .


Murder at Queen's LandingI got a very huffy reader review when my first Wrexford & Sloane came out, lecturing me on how wrong I was about history, and saying how dare I have women doing things they would never have done in the era.

So, I thought I’d share a few examples of unconventional women from an exhibit I saw a few years ago at the Weston Library at Oxford. As more and more fascinating stories are coming to light, we’re all learning that history is full of women in the regency—and all eras—who didn’t play by the rules.

AdaI’ll start with with intellectual pursuits: Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who was a brilliant mathematician, and is credited with writing the first computer program—yes, in the Regency! Ada was far too smart and curious to be content with the traditional strictures on what a woman could and couldn’t do. She worked with Charles Babbage on the concept of his revolutionary Computing Engine, and actually envisioned the day when a machine could create pictures and music! (Lady Cordelia, a main secondary character in my series is an homage to Ada.)

Now, let’s have even more fun: women dressing as men! Given all the really fun things that women were forbidden to do in the past eras, it’s no wonder that women dressed as men much more often than one might think!

Mary Lacy
Take the case of Mary Lacy. In 1759, she stole a set of men’s clothing and ran away to have a more adventurous life. She first served as a ship’s servant, and then fished an apprenticeship and became a shipwright. Rheumatism finally forced her to retire—she’s though to be the first ever to receive a pension from the British Admiralty for her service. A book on her story was an instant hit in 1810!

Hannah SnellThen there was Hannah Snell (aka James Grey) , who served for over two years in a regiment of Marines before revealing her true identity. (Her comrades-in-arms were gobsmacked at the revelation!) She sold her story to a published and it was a hit. She also lobbied the government for a military pension—and won! She’s one of only two women ever buried at the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

Mary Frith-vertThere were, of course, some bad-girl cross-dressers! Mary Frith is a famous example from the 1600s. It’s hard to separate myth from reality, but she supposedly was a notorious thief and organized criminal activity. Known for swearing, smoking and dressing as a man, she earned the moniker of ‘roaring girl,’ which was a take-off on ‘roaring boy’, the term used for a wild young male criminal.

Mary Read and Ann Bonny led really unconventional lives. They were brought up as boys, then did revert to their traditional female role and married—only to go back to dressing as men and becoming pirates. They met aboard John Rockham’s pirate ship and became very good friend. Known for their cussing and toughness, they ended up escaping execution when their ship was caught because they were both pregnant at the time.

IMG_6238
Bonny’s last words to Rackham were supposedly: “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog.” Read died in prison, Bonney was released after giving birth, and nothing more is known of her.

These are just a few of the historical women who refused to conform to the conventions of their times. My feeling is there are countless more stories out there like these . . .women who dressed as men to attend university . . . women who ran the family business . . . frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were women who had legal, medical or political careers too!

So, I feel I’m being true to history when I have my women do things they’re not supposed to do.

How do you feel about unconventional characters in historical fiction. Do you find it takes you out of the story? Or are you will to accept that there were always rebels, no matter the era, who marched to their own inner drummer? Have you ever read any transgressions that you find too unbelievable?

160 thoughts on “Thinking Outside the Corset!”

  1. I love the unconventional characters. History has a large collecction of strong women; it stands to reason that what we know about would be the tip of the iceberg.
    On the other hand, fiction will end up having more of them than reality did. (I like to say that it’s the weight of the fictional characters that sunk the Lusitania and the Titanic; that caused the starvation at the Alamo, and so on. And how anyone could dance at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball boggles the mind, there are so many fictional people ther [starting with Thackery] that no one would have had room to move!)

    Reply
  2. I love the unconventional characters. History has a large collecction of strong women; it stands to reason that what we know about would be the tip of the iceberg.
    On the other hand, fiction will end up having more of them than reality did. (I like to say that it’s the weight of the fictional characters that sunk the Lusitania and the Titanic; that caused the starvation at the Alamo, and so on. And how anyone could dance at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball boggles the mind, there are so many fictional people ther [starting with Thackery] that no one would have had room to move!)

    Reply
  3. I love the unconventional characters. History has a large collecction of strong women; it stands to reason that what we know about would be the tip of the iceberg.
    On the other hand, fiction will end up having more of them than reality did. (I like to say that it’s the weight of the fictional characters that sunk the Lusitania and the Titanic; that caused the starvation at the Alamo, and so on. And how anyone could dance at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball boggles the mind, there are so many fictional people ther [starting with Thackery] that no one would have had room to move!)

    Reply
  4. I love the unconventional characters. History has a large collecction of strong women; it stands to reason that what we know about would be the tip of the iceberg.
    On the other hand, fiction will end up having more of them than reality did. (I like to say that it’s the weight of the fictional characters that sunk the Lusitania and the Titanic; that caused the starvation at the Alamo, and so on. And how anyone could dance at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball boggles the mind, there are so many fictional people ther [starting with Thackery] that no one would have had room to move!)

    Reply
  5. I love the unconventional characters. History has a large collecction of strong women; it stands to reason that what we know about would be the tip of the iceberg.
    On the other hand, fiction will end up having more of them than reality did. (I like to say that it’s the weight of the fictional characters that sunk the Lusitania and the Titanic; that caused the starvation at the Alamo, and so on. And how anyone could dance at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball boggles the mind, there are so many fictional people ther [starting with Thackery] that no one would have had room to move!)

    Reply
  6. Spot on Andrea. Every scientist knows that events in the real world conform to probability distributions. Some are more likely than others and there may be consequences but nothing is forbidden (unless conservation laws are involved).
    To maintain historical legitimacy I think that unusual rebel nature of a heroine should be reflected in the response of other characters in the story …. ostracism by the haute monde for example. But maverick like breaking of rules always adds to interest ….. why else are crime novels so popular!

    Reply
  7. Spot on Andrea. Every scientist knows that events in the real world conform to probability distributions. Some are more likely than others and there may be consequences but nothing is forbidden (unless conservation laws are involved).
    To maintain historical legitimacy I think that unusual rebel nature of a heroine should be reflected in the response of other characters in the story …. ostracism by the haute monde for example. But maverick like breaking of rules always adds to interest ….. why else are crime novels so popular!

    Reply
  8. Spot on Andrea. Every scientist knows that events in the real world conform to probability distributions. Some are more likely than others and there may be consequences but nothing is forbidden (unless conservation laws are involved).
    To maintain historical legitimacy I think that unusual rebel nature of a heroine should be reflected in the response of other characters in the story …. ostracism by the haute monde for example. But maverick like breaking of rules always adds to interest ….. why else are crime novels so popular!

    Reply
  9. Spot on Andrea. Every scientist knows that events in the real world conform to probability distributions. Some are more likely than others and there may be consequences but nothing is forbidden (unless conservation laws are involved).
    To maintain historical legitimacy I think that unusual rebel nature of a heroine should be reflected in the response of other characters in the story …. ostracism by the haute monde for example. But maverick like breaking of rules always adds to interest ….. why else are crime novels so popular!

    Reply
  10. Spot on Andrea. Every scientist knows that events in the real world conform to probability distributions. Some are more likely than others and there may be consequences but nothing is forbidden (unless conservation laws are involved).
    To maintain historical legitimacy I think that unusual rebel nature of a heroine should be reflected in the response of other characters in the story …. ostracism by the haute monde for example. But maverick like breaking of rules always adds to interest ….. why else are crime novels so popular!

    Reply
  11. It seems to me that there were quite a few women who dressed as men and fought in the Civil War in the U.S. Why they would want to is beyond me, but I seem to recall reading about them somewhere before. Fascinating subject.

    Reply
  12. It seems to me that there were quite a few women who dressed as men and fought in the Civil War in the U.S. Why they would want to is beyond me, but I seem to recall reading about them somewhere before. Fascinating subject.

    Reply
  13. It seems to me that there were quite a few women who dressed as men and fought in the Civil War in the U.S. Why they would want to is beyond me, but I seem to recall reading about them somewhere before. Fascinating subject.

    Reply
  14. It seems to me that there were quite a few women who dressed as men and fought in the Civil War in the U.S. Why they would want to is beyond me, but I seem to recall reading about them somewhere before. Fascinating subject.

    Reply
  15. It seems to me that there were quite a few women who dressed as men and fought in the Civil War in the U.S. Why they would want to is beyond me, but I seem to recall reading about them somewhere before. Fascinating subject.

    Reply
  16. Sue, you’re so right about the tip of the iceberg! I love all the stories that are coming to light—the ones that didn’t fit into the traditional narratives.
    And you’re also right that authors have to be a little careful not to overdo it! There were always flamboyant rule-breakers. But I think most of them were careful to not draw too much attention.

    Reply
  17. Sue, you’re so right about the tip of the iceberg! I love all the stories that are coming to light—the ones that didn’t fit into the traditional narratives.
    And you’re also right that authors have to be a little careful not to overdo it! There were always flamboyant rule-breakers. But I think most of them were careful to not draw too much attention.

    Reply
  18. Sue, you’re so right about the tip of the iceberg! I love all the stories that are coming to light—the ones that didn’t fit into the traditional narratives.
    And you’re also right that authors have to be a little careful not to overdo it! There were always flamboyant rule-breakers. But I think most of them were careful to not draw too much attention.

    Reply
  19. Sue, you’re so right about the tip of the iceberg! I love all the stories that are coming to light—the ones that didn’t fit into the traditional narratives.
    And you’re also right that authors have to be a little careful not to overdo it! There were always flamboyant rule-breakers. But I think most of them were careful to not draw too much attention.

    Reply
  20. Sue, you’re so right about the tip of the iceberg! I love all the stories that are coming to light—the ones that didn’t fit into the traditional narratives.
    And you’re also right that authors have to be a little careful not to overdo it! There were always flamboyant rule-breakers. But I think most of them were careful to not draw too much attention.

    Reply
  21. Yes, I’m sure all wars had women who wished to be part of the action. Why? probably for many of the same reasons that men felt compelled to put themselves in harm’s way.
    Several women fought in the gun crews of the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar . . . and they actually received the same commemorative medal as the men.

    Reply
  22. Yes, I’m sure all wars had women who wished to be part of the action. Why? probably for many of the same reasons that men felt compelled to put themselves in harm’s way.
    Several women fought in the gun crews of the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar . . . and they actually received the same commemorative medal as the men.

    Reply
  23. Yes, I’m sure all wars had women who wished to be part of the action. Why? probably for many of the same reasons that men felt compelled to put themselves in harm’s way.
    Several women fought in the gun crews of the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar . . . and they actually received the same commemorative medal as the men.

    Reply
  24. Yes, I’m sure all wars had women who wished to be part of the action. Why? probably for many of the same reasons that men felt compelled to put themselves in harm’s way.
    Several women fought in the gun crews of the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar . . . and they actually received the same commemorative medal as the men.

    Reply
  25. Yes, I’m sure all wars had women who wished to be part of the action. Why? probably for many of the same reasons that men felt compelled to put themselves in harm’s way.
    Several women fought in the gun crews of the British Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar . . . and they actually received the same commemorative medal as the men.

    Reply
  26. Here is one of the best sources I have for the work women “really” did according to the 1860 Census. It is specific to the American Victorian Era, but one can infer many of these occupations to previous time periods. Women have always done more work than what Society dictated.
    Sometimes when I read historical romances or mysteries the heroine is too far out of the norm of documentable occupations, too often their backstory doesn’t give them the flexibility to stretch their boundaries. Others like your heroines have believable occupations that fit their situations. Charlotte Sloane is a widow and had to support herself after her husband’s death, she’s gently born and as such she is an accomplished artist. Taking over her husband’s business makes sense as she has the skill to do it, the insight into the Ton to make her satires en point, and to create an income for herself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  27. Here is one of the best sources I have for the work women “really” did according to the 1860 Census. It is specific to the American Victorian Era, but one can infer many of these occupations to previous time periods. Women have always done more work than what Society dictated.
    Sometimes when I read historical romances or mysteries the heroine is too far out of the norm of documentable occupations, too often their backstory doesn’t give them the flexibility to stretch their boundaries. Others like your heroines have believable occupations that fit their situations. Charlotte Sloane is a widow and had to support herself after her husband’s death, she’s gently born and as such she is an accomplished artist. Taking over her husband’s business makes sense as she has the skill to do it, the insight into the Ton to make her satires en point, and to create an income for herself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  28. Here is one of the best sources I have for the work women “really” did according to the 1860 Census. It is specific to the American Victorian Era, but one can infer many of these occupations to previous time periods. Women have always done more work than what Society dictated.
    Sometimes when I read historical romances or mysteries the heroine is too far out of the norm of documentable occupations, too often their backstory doesn’t give them the flexibility to stretch their boundaries. Others like your heroines have believable occupations that fit their situations. Charlotte Sloane is a widow and had to support herself after her husband’s death, she’s gently born and as such she is an accomplished artist. Taking over her husband’s business makes sense as she has the skill to do it, the insight into the Ton to make her satires en point, and to create an income for herself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  29. Here is one of the best sources I have for the work women “really” did according to the 1860 Census. It is specific to the American Victorian Era, but one can infer many of these occupations to previous time periods. Women have always done more work than what Society dictated.
    Sometimes when I read historical romances or mysteries the heroine is too far out of the norm of documentable occupations, too often their backstory doesn’t give them the flexibility to stretch their boundaries. Others like your heroines have believable occupations that fit their situations. Charlotte Sloane is a widow and had to support herself after her husband’s death, she’s gently born and as such she is an accomplished artist. Taking over her husband’s business makes sense as she has the skill to do it, the insight into the Ton to make her satires en point, and to create an income for herself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  30. Here is one of the best sources I have for the work women “really” did according to the 1860 Census. It is specific to the American Victorian Era, but one can infer many of these occupations to previous time periods. Women have always done more work than what Society dictated.
    Sometimes when I read historical romances or mysteries the heroine is too far out of the norm of documentable occupations, too often their backstory doesn’t give them the flexibility to stretch their boundaries. Others like your heroines have believable occupations that fit their situations. Charlotte Sloane is a widow and had to support herself after her husband’s death, she’s gently born and as such she is an accomplished artist. Taking over her husband’s business makes sense as she has the skill to do it, the insight into the Ton to make her satires en point, and to create an income for herself. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  31. Given the freedoms that men often had that women did not, it doesn’t surprise me that some women throughout time have dressed/lived as men. (And now I’m wondering how often the reverse took place.) Thanks for a thought provoking post, Andrea.

    Reply
  32. Given the freedoms that men often had that women did not, it doesn’t surprise me that some women throughout time have dressed/lived as men. (And now I’m wondering how often the reverse took place.) Thanks for a thought provoking post, Andrea.

    Reply
  33. Given the freedoms that men often had that women did not, it doesn’t surprise me that some women throughout time have dressed/lived as men. (And now I’m wondering how often the reverse took place.) Thanks for a thought provoking post, Andrea.

    Reply
  34. Given the freedoms that men often had that women did not, it doesn’t surprise me that some women throughout time have dressed/lived as men. (And now I’m wondering how often the reverse took place.) Thanks for a thought provoking post, Andrea.

    Reply
  35. Given the freedoms that men often had that women did not, it doesn’t surprise me that some women throughout time have dressed/lived as men. (And now I’m wondering how often the reverse took place.) Thanks for a thought provoking post, Andrea.

    Reply
  36. I don’t mind unconventional. I like it when characters step out of the box. One of my favorites is DANGEROUS WORKS by Caroline Warfield. The heroine is a scholarly intellectual who does suffer for being so eccentric – much of it at the hands of her own family.
    Love the examples you cite above. If I were a woman living during those times, I think there are times I’d be wearing trousers too (smile).

    Reply
  37. I don’t mind unconventional. I like it when characters step out of the box. One of my favorites is DANGEROUS WORKS by Caroline Warfield. The heroine is a scholarly intellectual who does suffer for being so eccentric – much of it at the hands of her own family.
    Love the examples you cite above. If I were a woman living during those times, I think there are times I’d be wearing trousers too (smile).

    Reply
  38. I don’t mind unconventional. I like it when characters step out of the box. One of my favorites is DANGEROUS WORKS by Caroline Warfield. The heroine is a scholarly intellectual who does suffer for being so eccentric – much of it at the hands of her own family.
    Love the examples you cite above. If I were a woman living during those times, I think there are times I’d be wearing trousers too (smile).

    Reply
  39. I don’t mind unconventional. I like it when characters step out of the box. One of my favorites is DANGEROUS WORKS by Caroline Warfield. The heroine is a scholarly intellectual who does suffer for being so eccentric – much of it at the hands of her own family.
    Love the examples you cite above. If I were a woman living during those times, I think there are times I’d be wearing trousers too (smile).

    Reply
  40. I don’t mind unconventional. I like it when characters step out of the box. One of my favorites is DANGEROUS WORKS by Caroline Warfield. The heroine is a scholarly intellectual who does suffer for being so eccentric – much of it at the hands of her own family.
    Love the examples you cite above. If I were a woman living during those times, I think there are times I’d be wearing trousers too (smile).

    Reply
  41. I also think historical women had more varied lives than we give them credit for, but I do think an author needs to take the mores of the period into account. One of the reasons I so enjoyed Imogen Robertson’s mysteries is that Harriet Westerman was a woman of the late 18th C who chafed at the restrictions placed on a woman of her class even as she (mostly) worked within them. She often resented having to hide her intelligence or to use men to achieve the ends she could so easily have achieved herself but for the need to keep her place. I’m quite disappointed that there’s been no new Westerman & Crowther mystery for several years.

    Reply
  42. I also think historical women had more varied lives than we give them credit for, but I do think an author needs to take the mores of the period into account. One of the reasons I so enjoyed Imogen Robertson’s mysteries is that Harriet Westerman was a woman of the late 18th C who chafed at the restrictions placed on a woman of her class even as she (mostly) worked within them. She often resented having to hide her intelligence or to use men to achieve the ends she could so easily have achieved herself but for the need to keep her place. I’m quite disappointed that there’s been no new Westerman & Crowther mystery for several years.

    Reply
  43. I also think historical women had more varied lives than we give them credit for, but I do think an author needs to take the mores of the period into account. One of the reasons I so enjoyed Imogen Robertson’s mysteries is that Harriet Westerman was a woman of the late 18th C who chafed at the restrictions placed on a woman of her class even as she (mostly) worked within them. She often resented having to hide her intelligence or to use men to achieve the ends she could so easily have achieved herself but for the need to keep her place. I’m quite disappointed that there’s been no new Westerman & Crowther mystery for several years.

    Reply
  44. I also think historical women had more varied lives than we give them credit for, but I do think an author needs to take the mores of the period into account. One of the reasons I so enjoyed Imogen Robertson’s mysteries is that Harriet Westerman was a woman of the late 18th C who chafed at the restrictions placed on a woman of her class even as she (mostly) worked within them. She often resented having to hide her intelligence or to use men to achieve the ends she could so easily have achieved herself but for the need to keep her place. I’m quite disappointed that there’s been no new Westerman & Crowther mystery for several years.

    Reply
  45. I also think historical women had more varied lives than we give them credit for, but I do think an author needs to take the mores of the period into account. One of the reasons I so enjoyed Imogen Robertson’s mysteries is that Harriet Westerman was a woman of the late 18th C who chafed at the restrictions placed on a woman of her class even as she (mostly) worked within them. She often resented having to hide her intelligence or to use men to achieve the ends she could so easily have achieved herself but for the need to keep her place. I’m quite disappointed that there’s been no new Westerman & Crowther mystery for several years.

    Reply
  46. Pamela,thanks so much for sharing the work source. If a family wasn’t wealthy, it just stand to reason that a woman might have had to work. Not surprising that so many did.
    And thank you for the nice words about my heroine, Charlotte. You’re right in that an unconventional heroine in a historical novel has to convince you of her reasons.It does have to make sense.

    Reply
  47. Pamela,thanks so much for sharing the work source. If a family wasn’t wealthy, it just stand to reason that a woman might have had to work. Not surprising that so many did.
    And thank you for the nice words about my heroine, Charlotte. You’re right in that an unconventional heroine in a historical novel has to convince you of her reasons.It does have to make sense.

    Reply
  48. Pamela,thanks so much for sharing the work source. If a family wasn’t wealthy, it just stand to reason that a woman might have had to work. Not surprising that so many did.
    And thank you for the nice words about my heroine, Charlotte. You’re right in that an unconventional heroine in a historical novel has to convince you of her reasons.It does have to make sense.

    Reply
  49. Pamela,thanks so much for sharing the work source. If a family wasn’t wealthy, it just stand to reason that a woman might have had to work. Not surprising that so many did.
    And thank you for the nice words about my heroine, Charlotte. You’re right in that an unconventional heroine in a historical novel has to convince you of her reasons.It does have to make sense.

    Reply
  50. Pamela,thanks so much for sharing the work source. If a family wasn’t wealthy, it just stand to reason that a woman might have had to work. Not surprising that so many did.
    And thank you for the nice words about my heroine, Charlotte. You’re right in that an unconventional heroine in a historical novel has to convince you of her reasons.It does have to make sense.

    Reply
  51. SO true, Kareni! There were such restrictions on women. Any woman with curiosity or a sense of adventure would have chafed under the rules and likely would have dared to dress as a man.
    Because the strictures were so restrictive, not sure many men would want the trade-off. Though I’m sure some did.
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  52. SO true, Kareni! There were such restrictions on women. Any woman with curiosity or a sense of adventure would have chafed under the rules and likely would have dared to dress as a man.
    Because the strictures were so restrictive, not sure many men would want the trade-off. Though I’m sure some did.
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  53. SO true, Kareni! There were such restrictions on women. Any woman with curiosity or a sense of adventure would have chafed under the rules and likely would have dared to dress as a man.
    Because the strictures were so restrictive, not sure many men would want the trade-off. Though I’m sure some did.
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  54. SO true, Kareni! There were such restrictions on women. Any woman with curiosity or a sense of adventure would have chafed under the rules and likely would have dared to dress as a man.
    Because the strictures were so restrictive, not sure many men would want the trade-off. Though I’m sure some did.
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  55. SO true, Kareni! There were such restrictions on women. Any woman with curiosity or a sense of adventure would have chafed under the rules and likely would have dared to dress as a man.
    Because the strictures were so restrictive, not sure many men would want the trade-off. Though I’m sure some did.
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Reply
  56. Not only adventurers, but scientists, artists, musicians, the women behind the men in the House of Lords and Commons, etc. I love those stories.

    Reply
  57. Not only adventurers, but scientists, artists, musicians, the women behind the men in the House of Lords and Commons, etc. I love those stories.

    Reply
  58. Not only adventurers, but scientists, artists, musicians, the women behind the men in the House of Lords and Commons, etc. I love those stories.

    Reply
  59. Not only adventurers, but scientists, artists, musicians, the women behind the men in the House of Lords and Commons, etc. I love those stories.

    Reply
  60. Not only adventurers, but scientists, artists, musicians, the women behind the men in the House of Lords and Commons, etc. I love those stories.

    Reply
  61. Great post, Andrea! I think that any woman who was highly intelligent must have felt very restricted in the past and probably tried to find ways to circumvent this. Dressing as a man is the obvious way, but they might have been more subtle too. If you look at people like the Bronte sisters, they were clearly not happy just sitting around doing sewing or whatever – they found a different outlet for their minds. And a lot of ladies seem to have been very well read, ploughing through dusty tomes that I would consider seriously boring but their enquiring minds took it all in. Personally, I would have gone insane if I had to sit around looking demure all day and my sewing skills are a disaster

    Reply
  62. Great post, Andrea! I think that any woman who was highly intelligent must have felt very restricted in the past and probably tried to find ways to circumvent this. Dressing as a man is the obvious way, but they might have been more subtle too. If you look at people like the Bronte sisters, they were clearly not happy just sitting around doing sewing or whatever – they found a different outlet for their minds. And a lot of ladies seem to have been very well read, ploughing through dusty tomes that I would consider seriously boring but their enquiring minds took it all in. Personally, I would have gone insane if I had to sit around looking demure all day and my sewing skills are a disaster

    Reply
  63. Great post, Andrea! I think that any woman who was highly intelligent must have felt very restricted in the past and probably tried to find ways to circumvent this. Dressing as a man is the obvious way, but they might have been more subtle too. If you look at people like the Bronte sisters, they were clearly not happy just sitting around doing sewing or whatever – they found a different outlet for their minds. And a lot of ladies seem to have been very well read, ploughing through dusty tomes that I would consider seriously boring but their enquiring minds took it all in. Personally, I would have gone insane if I had to sit around looking demure all day and my sewing skills are a disaster

    Reply
  64. Great post, Andrea! I think that any woman who was highly intelligent must have felt very restricted in the past and probably tried to find ways to circumvent this. Dressing as a man is the obvious way, but they might have been more subtle too. If you look at people like the Bronte sisters, they were clearly not happy just sitting around doing sewing or whatever – they found a different outlet for their minds. And a lot of ladies seem to have been very well read, ploughing through dusty tomes that I would consider seriously boring but their enquiring minds took it all in. Personally, I would have gone insane if I had to sit around looking demure all day and my sewing skills are a disaster

    Reply
  65. Great post, Andrea! I think that any woman who was highly intelligent must have felt very restricted in the past and probably tried to find ways to circumvent this. Dressing as a man is the obvious way, but they might have been more subtle too. If you look at people like the Bronte sisters, they were clearly not happy just sitting around doing sewing or whatever – they found a different outlet for their minds. And a lot of ladies seem to have been very well read, ploughing through dusty tomes that I would consider seriously boring but their enquiring minds took it all in. Personally, I would have gone insane if I had to sit around looking demure all day and my sewing skills are a disaster

    Reply
  66. Ha! SO true about the boredom, Chritina! Girls were really lucky if their fathers allowed them to be educated alongside their brothers, There are many stories like these, where they learned Greek, Latin,scientific thing, etc. It was both wonderful and frustrating, as they had tobatlle so many prejudices about a women’s intellect as they grew older.
    Your point about the Brontes is really good. Jane Austen is another example! Writing gave women a chance to exercise their talents in a ‘quiet’ way. I’m sure there were many women who studied the local flora and fauna—there were many gifted women artists of the natural world.
    I’m all thumbs with a needle, so I’m sure I would have ended up being quite a hellion in Regency days!

    Reply
  67. Ha! SO true about the boredom, Chritina! Girls were really lucky if their fathers allowed them to be educated alongside their brothers, There are many stories like these, where they learned Greek, Latin,scientific thing, etc. It was both wonderful and frustrating, as they had tobatlle so many prejudices about a women’s intellect as they grew older.
    Your point about the Brontes is really good. Jane Austen is another example! Writing gave women a chance to exercise their talents in a ‘quiet’ way. I’m sure there were many women who studied the local flora and fauna—there were many gifted women artists of the natural world.
    I’m all thumbs with a needle, so I’m sure I would have ended up being quite a hellion in Regency days!

    Reply
  68. Ha! SO true about the boredom, Chritina! Girls were really lucky if their fathers allowed them to be educated alongside their brothers, There are many stories like these, where they learned Greek, Latin,scientific thing, etc. It was both wonderful and frustrating, as they had tobatlle so many prejudices about a women’s intellect as they grew older.
    Your point about the Brontes is really good. Jane Austen is another example! Writing gave women a chance to exercise their talents in a ‘quiet’ way. I’m sure there were many women who studied the local flora and fauna—there were many gifted women artists of the natural world.
    I’m all thumbs with a needle, so I’m sure I would have ended up being quite a hellion in Regency days!

    Reply
  69. Ha! SO true about the boredom, Chritina! Girls were really lucky if their fathers allowed them to be educated alongside their brothers, There are many stories like these, where they learned Greek, Latin,scientific thing, etc. It was both wonderful and frustrating, as they had tobatlle so many prejudices about a women’s intellect as they grew older.
    Your point about the Brontes is really good. Jane Austen is another example! Writing gave women a chance to exercise their talents in a ‘quiet’ way. I’m sure there were many women who studied the local flora and fauna—there were many gifted women artists of the natural world.
    I’m all thumbs with a needle, so I’m sure I would have ended up being quite a hellion in Regency days!

    Reply
  70. Ha! SO true about the boredom, Chritina! Girls were really lucky if their fathers allowed them to be educated alongside their brothers, There are many stories like these, where they learned Greek, Latin,scientific thing, etc. It was both wonderful and frustrating, as they had tobatlle so many prejudices about a women’s intellect as they grew older.
    Your point about the Brontes is really good. Jane Austen is another example! Writing gave women a chance to exercise their talents in a ‘quiet’ way. I’m sure there were many women who studied the local flora and fauna—there were many gifted women artists of the natural world.
    I’m all thumbs with a needle, so I’m sure I would have ended up being quite a hellion in Regency days!

    Reply
  71. I love reading about unconventional female characters. There are so many real stories of women during the American Revolution that disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. We’ll never know the exact number of women who did this.
    Women have done whatever it took to receive an education and get out of the shackles of laws biased in favor of the man.
    That sick, patriarchal mentality of men thinking a woman’s brain was smaller and unable to function without a man has pushed women to get what they wanted out of their lives as much as they could.
    The push continues now, too.

    Reply
  72. I love reading about unconventional female characters. There are so many real stories of women during the American Revolution that disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. We’ll never know the exact number of women who did this.
    Women have done whatever it took to receive an education and get out of the shackles of laws biased in favor of the man.
    That sick, patriarchal mentality of men thinking a woman’s brain was smaller and unable to function without a man has pushed women to get what they wanted out of their lives as much as they could.
    The push continues now, too.

    Reply
  73. I love reading about unconventional female characters. There are so many real stories of women during the American Revolution that disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. We’ll never know the exact number of women who did this.
    Women have done whatever it took to receive an education and get out of the shackles of laws biased in favor of the man.
    That sick, patriarchal mentality of men thinking a woman’s brain was smaller and unable to function without a man has pushed women to get what they wanted out of their lives as much as they could.
    The push continues now, too.

    Reply
  74. I love reading about unconventional female characters. There are so many real stories of women during the American Revolution that disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. We’ll never know the exact number of women who did this.
    Women have done whatever it took to receive an education and get out of the shackles of laws biased in favor of the man.
    That sick, patriarchal mentality of men thinking a woman’s brain was smaller and unable to function without a man has pushed women to get what they wanted out of their lives as much as they could.
    The push continues now, too.

    Reply
  75. I love reading about unconventional female characters. There are so many real stories of women during the American Revolution that disguised themselves as men to fight in the war. We’ll never know the exact number of women who did this.
    Women have done whatever it took to receive an education and get out of the shackles of laws biased in favor of the man.
    That sick, patriarchal mentality of men thinking a woman’s brain was smaller and unable to function without a man has pushed women to get what they wanted out of their lives as much as they could.
    The push continues now, too.

    Reply
  76. I love stories where the characters will take on roles not usually acceptable for them. I like it for both women and men. Women doing a man’s job, dressing like one and doing the best they can. Men showing their softer side, caring for children, sharing the household chores and accepting women who are unconventional. If it works for the story by all means write it. Let the doubters do their own research if they don’t believe it or like it.

    Reply
  77. I love stories where the characters will take on roles not usually acceptable for them. I like it for both women and men. Women doing a man’s job, dressing like one and doing the best they can. Men showing their softer side, caring for children, sharing the household chores and accepting women who are unconventional. If it works for the story by all means write it. Let the doubters do their own research if they don’t believe it or like it.

    Reply
  78. I love stories where the characters will take on roles not usually acceptable for them. I like it for both women and men. Women doing a man’s job, dressing like one and doing the best they can. Men showing their softer side, caring for children, sharing the household chores and accepting women who are unconventional. If it works for the story by all means write it. Let the doubters do their own research if they don’t believe it or like it.

    Reply
  79. I love stories where the characters will take on roles not usually acceptable for them. I like it for both women and men. Women doing a man’s job, dressing like one and doing the best they can. Men showing their softer side, caring for children, sharing the household chores and accepting women who are unconventional. If it works for the story by all means write it. Let the doubters do their own research if they don’t believe it or like it.

    Reply
  80. I love stories where the characters will take on roles not usually acceptable for them. I like it for both women and men. Women doing a man’s job, dressing like one and doing the best they can. Men showing their softer side, caring for children, sharing the household chores and accepting women who are unconventional. If it works for the story by all means write it. Let the doubters do their own research if they don’t believe it or like it.

    Reply
  81. I don’t mind unconventional women as long as they don’t do something dumb, like go down a dark basement stairs after they hear a noise.
    I do have a problem with women in historical fiction wearing boys trousers. I would have trouble getting a pair of boys pants on one leg, let alone two…and then I’d have to pull them up over my thighs and hips. I don’t think they would get that far. I’d probably insure my hand trying to tug them up. I could wear a trouser on each leg. I’ve looked at children’s fashion plates, and I don’t think I could fit in historical boys pants either.

    Reply
  82. I don’t mind unconventional women as long as they don’t do something dumb, like go down a dark basement stairs after they hear a noise.
    I do have a problem with women in historical fiction wearing boys trousers. I would have trouble getting a pair of boys pants on one leg, let alone two…and then I’d have to pull them up over my thighs and hips. I don’t think they would get that far. I’d probably insure my hand trying to tug them up. I could wear a trouser on each leg. I’ve looked at children’s fashion plates, and I don’t think I could fit in historical boys pants either.

    Reply
  83. I don’t mind unconventional women as long as they don’t do something dumb, like go down a dark basement stairs after they hear a noise.
    I do have a problem with women in historical fiction wearing boys trousers. I would have trouble getting a pair of boys pants on one leg, let alone two…and then I’d have to pull them up over my thighs and hips. I don’t think they would get that far. I’d probably insure my hand trying to tug them up. I could wear a trouser on each leg. I’ve looked at children’s fashion plates, and I don’t think I could fit in historical boys pants either.

    Reply
  84. I don’t mind unconventional women as long as they don’t do something dumb, like go down a dark basement stairs after they hear a noise.
    I do have a problem with women in historical fiction wearing boys trousers. I would have trouble getting a pair of boys pants on one leg, let alone two…and then I’d have to pull them up over my thighs and hips. I don’t think they would get that far. I’d probably insure my hand trying to tug them up. I could wear a trouser on each leg. I’ve looked at children’s fashion plates, and I don’t think I could fit in historical boys pants either.

    Reply
  85. I don’t mind unconventional women as long as they don’t do something dumb, like go down a dark basement stairs after they hear a noise.
    I do have a problem with women in historical fiction wearing boys trousers. I would have trouble getting a pair of boys pants on one leg, let alone two…and then I’d have to pull them up over my thighs and hips. I don’t think they would get that far. I’d probably insure my hand trying to tug them up. I could wear a trouser on each leg. I’ve looked at children’s fashion plates, and I don’t think I could fit in historical boys pants either.

    Reply
  86. I do like unconventional women as long as they don’t go too far or act TOO unlikely.
    I finished your new book a couple of days ago Andrea. Really enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the Deerhound. We had an Irish Wolfhound, which are very similar, so I could picture him perfectly! Brought back memories.

    Reply
  87. I do like unconventional women as long as they don’t go too far or act TOO unlikely.
    I finished your new book a couple of days ago Andrea. Really enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the Deerhound. We had an Irish Wolfhound, which are very similar, so I could picture him perfectly! Brought back memories.

    Reply
  88. I do like unconventional women as long as they don’t go too far or act TOO unlikely.
    I finished your new book a couple of days ago Andrea. Really enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the Deerhound. We had an Irish Wolfhound, which are very similar, so I could picture him perfectly! Brought back memories.

    Reply
  89. I do like unconventional women as long as they don’t go too far or act TOO unlikely.
    I finished your new book a couple of days ago Andrea. Really enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the Deerhound. We had an Irish Wolfhound, which are very similar, so I could picture him perfectly! Brought back memories.

    Reply
  90. I do like unconventional women as long as they don’t go too far or act TOO unlikely.
    I finished your new book a couple of days ago Andrea. Really enjoyed it. I loved the addition of the Deerhound. We had an Irish Wolfhound, which are very similar, so I could picture him perfectly! Brought back memories.

    Reply
  91. Thanks for a delightful post. I know that during the American Civil War, there were women who became soldiers. I am not sure why they would want to be shot at, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
    I have seen uniforms worn by union soldiers at Gettysburg. I do not know how any woman who was not a stick person could have fit into the pants without showing that they were quite feminine.
    As far as women who were unconventional…seriously, do any of us believe that everyone followed the rules and colored within the lines? I believe that it would have been more difficult for women of upper classes to
    do anything considered out of the ordinary. The other women, would have had fewer people keeping track of what they are doing, wearing or where they were going.
    One of the few times being middle class or lower would have been an advantage and provided more freedom.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

    Reply
  92. Thanks for a delightful post. I know that during the American Civil War, there were women who became soldiers. I am not sure why they would want to be shot at, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
    I have seen uniforms worn by union soldiers at Gettysburg. I do not know how any woman who was not a stick person could have fit into the pants without showing that they were quite feminine.
    As far as women who were unconventional…seriously, do any of us believe that everyone followed the rules and colored within the lines? I believe that it would have been more difficult for women of upper classes to
    do anything considered out of the ordinary. The other women, would have had fewer people keeping track of what they are doing, wearing or where they were going.
    One of the few times being middle class or lower would have been an advantage and provided more freedom.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

    Reply
  93. Thanks for a delightful post. I know that during the American Civil War, there were women who became soldiers. I am not sure why they would want to be shot at, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
    I have seen uniforms worn by union soldiers at Gettysburg. I do not know how any woman who was not a stick person could have fit into the pants without showing that they were quite feminine.
    As far as women who were unconventional…seriously, do any of us believe that everyone followed the rules and colored within the lines? I believe that it would have been more difficult for women of upper classes to
    do anything considered out of the ordinary. The other women, would have had fewer people keeping track of what they are doing, wearing or where they were going.
    One of the few times being middle class or lower would have been an advantage and provided more freedom.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

    Reply
  94. Thanks for a delightful post. I know that during the American Civil War, there were women who became soldiers. I am not sure why they would want to be shot at, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
    I have seen uniforms worn by union soldiers at Gettysburg. I do not know how any woman who was not a stick person could have fit into the pants without showing that they were quite feminine.
    As far as women who were unconventional…seriously, do any of us believe that everyone followed the rules and colored within the lines? I believe that it would have been more difficult for women of upper classes to
    do anything considered out of the ordinary. The other women, would have had fewer people keeping track of what they are doing, wearing or where they were going.
    One of the few times being middle class or lower would have been an advantage and provided more freedom.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

    Reply
  95. Thanks for a delightful post. I know that during the American Civil War, there were women who became soldiers. I am not sure why they would want to be shot at, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
    I have seen uniforms worn by union soldiers at Gettysburg. I do not know how any woman who was not a stick person could have fit into the pants without showing that they were quite feminine.
    As far as women who were unconventional…seriously, do any of us believe that everyone followed the rules and colored within the lines? I believe that it would have been more difficult for women of upper classes to
    do anything considered out of the ordinary. The other women, would have had fewer people keeping track of what they are doing, wearing or where they were going.
    One of the few times being middle class or lower would have been an advantage and provided more freedom.
    I hope everyone is taking care and staying safe.

    Reply
  96. Annette, love your staetment about coloring within the lines! You make a good pint about women outside the aristocracy having freedom because no one was watching as closely—and also because necessity forced them to be more involved in all aspects of life. They run shops, work outside the home, etc.
    And yes, the clothing from the past does make us aware that people tended to be smaller. When I see Regency ballgown on exhibit in museums, they look like they are made for 10 yr. olds!

    Reply
  97. Annette, love your staetment about coloring within the lines! You make a good pint about women outside the aristocracy having freedom because no one was watching as closely—and also because necessity forced them to be more involved in all aspects of life. They run shops, work outside the home, etc.
    And yes, the clothing from the past does make us aware that people tended to be smaller. When I see Regency ballgown on exhibit in museums, they look like they are made for 10 yr. olds!

    Reply
  98. Annette, love your staetment about coloring within the lines! You make a good pint about women outside the aristocracy having freedom because no one was watching as closely—and also because necessity forced them to be more involved in all aspects of life. They run shops, work outside the home, etc.
    And yes, the clothing from the past does make us aware that people tended to be smaller. When I see Regency ballgown on exhibit in museums, they look like they are made for 10 yr. olds!

    Reply
  99. Annette, love your staetment about coloring within the lines! You make a good pint about women outside the aristocracy having freedom because no one was watching as closely—and also because necessity forced them to be more involved in all aspects of life. They run shops, work outside the home, etc.
    And yes, the clothing from the past does make us aware that people tended to be smaller. When I see Regency ballgown on exhibit in museums, they look like they are made for 10 yr. olds!

    Reply
  100. Annette, love your staetment about coloring within the lines! You make a good pint about women outside the aristocracy having freedom because no one was watching as closely—and also because necessity forced them to be more involved in all aspects of life. They run shops, work outside the home, etc.
    And yes, the clothing from the past does make us aware that people tended to be smaller. When I see Regency ballgown on exhibit in museums, they look like they are made for 10 yr. olds!

    Reply
  101. Like you, I’ve always believed women were much more unconventional than history (written by men) has recorded. On the other hand, I once started to read a so-called “Western” supposedly set in the 1880s. A young woman from an outlying farm family came to town wearing jeans and walked into a saloon and sat on a bar stool. Never mind that bar stools were not a part of saloons until the early 1900s (you bellied up to the bar or sat at a table). What bothered me and caused me to return the book was that not a single male in the saloon turned a hair. A young woman of decent family might have TRIED to walk into a saloon, but she would have been politely (or not) marched back out and told to go home. So it’s alright with me to read a book with an unconventional woman — just make sure the society of the time reacts realistically.

    Reply
  102. Like you, I’ve always believed women were much more unconventional than history (written by men) has recorded. On the other hand, I once started to read a so-called “Western” supposedly set in the 1880s. A young woman from an outlying farm family came to town wearing jeans and walked into a saloon and sat on a bar stool. Never mind that bar stools were not a part of saloons until the early 1900s (you bellied up to the bar or sat at a table). What bothered me and caused me to return the book was that not a single male in the saloon turned a hair. A young woman of decent family might have TRIED to walk into a saloon, but she would have been politely (or not) marched back out and told to go home. So it’s alright with me to read a book with an unconventional woman — just make sure the society of the time reacts realistically.

    Reply
  103. Like you, I’ve always believed women were much more unconventional than history (written by men) has recorded. On the other hand, I once started to read a so-called “Western” supposedly set in the 1880s. A young woman from an outlying farm family came to town wearing jeans and walked into a saloon and sat on a bar stool. Never mind that bar stools were not a part of saloons until the early 1900s (you bellied up to the bar or sat at a table). What bothered me and caused me to return the book was that not a single male in the saloon turned a hair. A young woman of decent family might have TRIED to walk into a saloon, but she would have been politely (or not) marched back out and told to go home. So it’s alright with me to read a book with an unconventional woman — just make sure the society of the time reacts realistically.

    Reply
  104. Like you, I’ve always believed women were much more unconventional than history (written by men) has recorded. On the other hand, I once started to read a so-called “Western” supposedly set in the 1880s. A young woman from an outlying farm family came to town wearing jeans and walked into a saloon and sat on a bar stool. Never mind that bar stools were not a part of saloons until the early 1900s (you bellied up to the bar or sat at a table). What bothered me and caused me to return the book was that not a single male in the saloon turned a hair. A young woman of decent family might have TRIED to walk into a saloon, but she would have been politely (or not) marched back out and told to go home. So it’s alright with me to read a book with an unconventional woman — just make sure the society of the time reacts realistically.

    Reply
  105. Like you, I’ve always believed women were much more unconventional than history (written by men) has recorded. On the other hand, I once started to read a so-called “Western” supposedly set in the 1880s. A young woman from an outlying farm family came to town wearing jeans and walked into a saloon and sat on a bar stool. Never mind that bar stools were not a part of saloons until the early 1900s (you bellied up to the bar or sat at a table). What bothered me and caused me to return the book was that not a single male in the saloon turned a hair. A young woman of decent family might have TRIED to walk into a saloon, but she would have been politely (or not) marched back out and told to go home. So it’s alright with me to read a book with an unconventional woman — just make sure the society of the time reacts realistically.

    Reply

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