Printable zine version:
1673 – 1707.
Born to the former musketeer Gaston d’Aubigny, secretary to the Grand Squire of France of King Louis XIV, Julie d’Aubigny had the upbringing of a young nobleman and cavalier, highly educated and trained in fencing, by age 12 competing against men. At 14 she was married, but fled Paris with her fencing instructor, earning money on the road through duels whilst dressed in male clothing. She joined a touring opera company, soon attracting the attention of a young woman. Horrified, the girl’s family sent her off to a convent in Avignon. Having none of that, d’Aubigny entered the convent as a postulate. Using the body of a recently deceased nun, the two decoyed the girl’s cell and started a fire, escaping together. They were on the run for three months before the girl was recaptured and sent to a new convent. D’Aubigny continued her roadside journey, still in men’s dress, still taking on fencing duels (one of which being the Comte d’Albert who she began a romance with.)
Now 17, she returned to Parisian Opera, gained a pardon for her nun-based crimes and became a celebrated singer. Not content with the simple life, she attended a court ball in men’s dress and kissed a woman. Three men challenged her to a duel in which she defeated them simultaneously. Duels were illegal and she once again fled Paris. After a stage-based self-stabbing in Brussels, she returned to Paris by way of Madrid, once again gaining a pardon from the King. After a decade of brawling and belting both on and off stage, in 1703 she fell in love with Madame la Marquise de Florensac:
“For two years they dwelt in such affection they believed to be perfect, ethereal, and beyond reach of the contamination of men; the young women isolated themselves, enamoured, only appearing in public at occasions where their presence was essential.”
After the Madame’s death, d’Aubigny joined a convent and died at the too brief age of 33.
Gardiner, K. 2015. Goddess. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Gardiner, K. 2020. Meet Julie d'Aubigny: The French Gender-bending Opera Diva Your History Teacher Didn't Want You To Know About. [online] Bust. Available at: <https://bust.com/feminism/197195-mademoiselle-de-maupin-history.html> (Accessed: October 10, 2022)
Letainturier-Fradin, G. 1904. La Maupin (1670-1707) : Sa Vie, Ses Duels, Ses Aventures. Paris: Flammarion.
Toudouze, E. (1899) ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin.’ [Etching] In: Gautier, T. (1899) Mademoiselle de Maupin. London: The Walpole Press.
In Zine Figures:
1. 'Transitional Rapier' (hilt, c. 1625–50; blade, c. 17th century) [Steel, wood]
2. 'Rapier' (c. 1650–60) [Steel, copper, wood]
3. 'Rapier' (hilt c. 1630–40; blade, c. 17th century) [Steel, wood]
4 'Smallsword' (c. 1650) [Steel, copper, leather, wood]
5 'Smallsword carried by the Gardes du Corps' (1769) [Steel, silver, wood, textile]
6. 'Cup-Hilted Rapier' (c. 1650–75) [Steel, iron, wood]
Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Mary Read (c. 1690-1721) & Anne Bonny (1702–????).
If there were ever a couple to embody ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ it would be Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Kindred souls with matching tempers, both spent their childhoods disguised as boys, finding their way across oceans.
Anne, born the illegitimate child of William Cormac in Kinsale, Ireland, was taken by her father and raised to be a lawyers clerk under the name ‘Andy’. Fleeing his wife and her family, Cormac moved with Anne and her mother across the Atlantic to the Province of Carolina. Anne married James Bonny at 14 and after a little stabbing and arson,
“She was of a fierce and couragious Temper…several Stories were reported of her… as that she had kill’d an English Servant-Maid once in her Passion with a Case-Knife, … It was certain she was so robust, that once, when a young Fellow would have lain with her, against her Will, she beat him so, that he lay ill of it a considerable Time.”
Defoe. and Johnson. 1724. p. 171.
The two sailed for Nassau, in the modern-day Bahamas, then known as the Republic of Pirates. It's there that she met John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, beginning a relationship with him as both his lover and a disguised member of his crew.
Mary was raised under the disguise of her deceased brother. She found work as a foot-boy, a ‘powder monkey’, then the infantry and cavalry of the British Navy, all whilst still in disguise. In rapid succession, Mary revealed herself, married her bunkmate and was then widowed. She then reenlisted, quickly became uninterested in the relative peace, quit and boarded a ship for the West Indies.
The two would meet on the deck of Calico Jack’s ship. Anne attempted to seduce the recently captured Mary. Wary of her precarious position and Calico Jack’s jealousy, Mary popped a tit, letting Anne in on her secret. As with all sapphic relationships, many historians record the two as being very close friends. But in Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 book ‘A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates’, he writes that ‘Anne fell in love’ with Mary.
“Her Sex was not so much as suspected by any Person on Board, till Anne Bonny, who was not altogether so reserved in point of Chastity, took a particular liking to her; in short, Anne Bonny took her for a handsome young Fellow, and for some Reasons best known to herself, first discovered her Sex to Mary Read.”
Defoe. and Johnson. 1724. p. 162.
As predicted, Jack became suspicious of their relationship and set upon the two. Seeing Jack’s knife out, Mary, in tried and true fashion, opened up her blouse. Mollified, the three would go on to form an odd companionship.
“Captain Rackam, (as he was enjoined,) kept the Thing a Secret from all the Ship’s Company, yet, notwithstanding all her Cunning and Reserve, Love found her out in this Disguise, and hinder’d her from forgetting her Sex.”
Defoe. and Johnson. 1724. p. 162.
Despite a final effort from Mary and Anne, in 1720 pirate hunters captured Rackham’s ship. They hung Rackham, but Anne and Mary “pleaded their bellies” and so were granted a stay of execution until they gave birth. Whilst Mary died of a fever, Anne’s fate goes unrecorded. Some believe she continued earning reprieves until dying in 1733, others say she returned to North America dying in 1782.
Abbott, K., 2011. If There’s a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate Queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read. [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/if-theres-a-man-among-ye-the-tale-of-pirate-queens-anne-bonny-and-mary-read-45576461/> (Accessed: October 17, 2022)
Defoe, D. and Johnson, C., 1724. A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates. T. Warner. p.156-173. Available at: <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/40580/40580-h/40580-h.htm>
History is Gay. 2018. Were Some Pirates Poofters?. [online] Available at: <https://www.historyisgaypodcast.com/notes/2017/12/31/episode-1-were-some-pirates-poofters> (Accessed: October 17, 2022)
16 March 1822 - 25 May 1899.
Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, A. (c.1861-1864) Rosa Bonheur. [Albumen print on cardboard]
'Rosa Bonheur et Anna Klumpke au château de By vers' 1898. [Photograph]
This is where the trousers come in. To study animal musculature, Rosa would visit historically male-only spaces, livestock auctions, abattoirs and veterinary schools. As was her will and want, she donned trousers. At the time (and until 2013) it was illegal for women in France to wear trousers. To avoid arrest Rosa sought a ‘permission de travestissement’, a special alliance to dress in menswear. In 1865 she was awarded the red ribbon of the Légion d’honneur, which, alongside her trousers became a part of her everyday uniform.
For 40 years Rosa shared her life with childhood friend Nathalie Micas. She wrote:
"What would my life have been without her love and devotion. Yet people tried to give our love a bad name. They were flabbergasted that we pooled our money and left all our earthly goods to each other. Had I been a man, I would have married her, and nobody could have dreamed up all those silly stories."
van Slyke. 1997, p. xxvii.
Rosa kept her hair cropped, trousers on and a cigarette nearby; the prototypical modern lesbian. She was practical and keen to encourage other women artists, be it through example or through her personal tutelage.
Bonheur, R. (c. 1852-1855) 'The Horse Fair'. [Oil on canvas] At The Met, New York. 87.25
Intent on painting her portrait Anna Klumpke met Rosa in 1895. The two were partners for the rest of Rosa’s life. Rosa died in 1899 and buried alongside Nathalie in Paris. Klumpke, sole heir to her estate opened the Rosa Bonheur Memorial Art School for women and in 1908, published a biography of Rosa ‘Sa Vie Son Oeuvre’. Klumpke died in 1942, her ashes were interred in the same crypt.
In 1998 Klumke’s biography was translated into English. In 2017 Katherine Brault bought Chateau de By, transforming the largely untouched house into a time capsule of Rosa’s life.
Bonheur, R. 1849. Ploughing in Nevers [Oil on canvas] Musee d'Orsay.
Bonheur, R. (c. 1852-1855) 'The Horse Fair.' [Oil on canvas] At: The Met, New York. 87.25
Brace, A. 2022. Rosa Bonheur's Chateau is a time capsule waiting to be discovered, Messy Nessy Chic. Available at: <https://www.messynessychic.com/2019/08/23/rosa-bonheurs-chateau-is-a-time-capsule-waiting-to-be-discovered/> (Accessed: October 15, 2022).
Decree concerning the cross-dressing of women. (November 17, 1800) Paris, France.
Lampela, L. 2001. “Daring to be different: A look at three lesbian artists,” Art Education, 54(2), pp. 45–54. Available at:<https://doi.org/10.2307/3193946>
Mahoney, L. 2022. In 19th Century Paris, She Held a Permit to Wear Pants, Messy Nessy Chic. Available at: <https://www.messynessychic.com/2022/07/12/in-19th-century-paris-she-held-a-permit-to-wear-pants/> (Accessed: October 15, 2022).
Sciolino, E. 2020. The trailblazing French artist Rosa Bonheur is finally getting the attention she deserves, Smithsonian Institution. Available at: <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/redemption-rosa-bonheur-french-artist-180976027/> (Accessed: October 15, 2022).
van Slyke, G. 1997. Introduction to the English Edition. In: Klumpke, A. (1997), Rosa Bonheur: The artist’s autobiography (G. van Slyke, Trans.) Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. (Original work published in 1908.) p. xxvii
Zimmerman, B. 2013. Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis. p.125-311
In Zine Figures:
7. Bonheur, R. 1849. Ploughing in Nevers [Oil on canvas] Musee d'Orsay.
8. Cross-dressing permission granted to Rosa Bonheur (May 12, 1852)
9.'Rosa Bonheur et Anna Klumpke au château de By vers'. 1898. [Photograph]
Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876) Rosalie Sully (1818-1847).
Charlotte Cushman (b. 1816) was an American actress who met Rosalie Sully (b.1818) in 1843. Rosalie was the daughter of the painter Thomas Sully, and an artist in her own right. It was through a commissioned portrait that she met Charlotte, beginning an intense year-long affair.
“Charlotte's private life contributed to her indisposition" on occasion. She was involved with a number of women in what were referred to as "strong female friendships." In the summer of 1843, Charlotte became romantically involved with Rosalie Sully, the daughter of the artist she hired to paint her portrait. For more than a year, the two were inseparable. The letters Charlotte kept between the two were passionate and spoke of the long life the pair hoped to share together. According to Charlotte's diary, she gave Rosalie a ring in July 1844, and the two were subsequently married the same month. The legality of their union is a matter of question, but what is clear is the strong bond the couple enjoyed.
Life as a traveling thespian eventually took a toll on Charlotte and Rosalie's relationship. They grew apart, and Charlotte began seeing someone else. News that Charlotte had a new lover broke Rosalie's heart. She sank into a severe depression and remained in the forlorn state until her death in 1847. When Charlotte was informed of Rosalie's demise, she suffered a mental collapse. She canceled her spring tour and retreated to a spa in Switzerland.
Enss, 2016. p.67.
“Privately, Charlotte was herself melancholy, despite her success. Her love for Rose had deepened. It wasn’t enough to spend every day together; she wanted a household with Rose, even a family. Instead, in public she had to pretend that Rose was just a friend. Dressed as a young man, she stood as if naked before the audience, pleading, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!”
Cushman would go on to have no less than 6 known recorded sapphic relationships. Her decade-long affair with Matilda Hays gained notoriety through their matching outfits. In 1952 Cushman moved to Rome, joining a growing community of lesbian artists and sculptors. Here, she met and became close friends with sculptor Edmonia ‘Wildfire’ Lewis’.
“Another woman whose sexual desire for women seemed to be an open secret was Charlotte Cushman, a famous and much admired nineteenth-century American Shakespearean actress who arrived in Rome in 1852, forming a community of expatriate artistic and intellectual women with similar erotic desires. Members of her circle included boyish sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who flirted with both women and men before forming an erotic relationship with Louisa, Lady Ashburton, a Scottish aristocrat; Cushman’s first partner, writer, translator, and feminist Matilda Hays; her second partner, sculptor Emma Stebbins; Emily Faithfull, a masculine woman involved with a woman whose marriage ended in a scandalous divorce case; and African American and Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis.”
(Rupp, 2011, p.136)
“Known for playing Romeo onstage, Cushman romanced women offstage as well. Not only did she form two long-term and public relationships with women, but she also carried on more secret affairs with younger female fans. Not long after Cushman exchanged rings with Stebbins, while touring in the United States she met Emma Crow, the young daughter of Harriet Hosmer’s patron, and fell madly in love. She told Crow from the outset that she was “already married” and that she wore “the badge upon the third finger of [her] left hand,” but she also expressed her passion: “I love you dearly, my own darling. . . . I love you! I love you! Goodbye, I kiss your pretty soft loving eyes and hands.”
(Rupp, 2011, p.137)