Charles aka Mary Hamilton 1721- c. 1746 England
gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches
2010

Mary Hamilton left home in her brother’s clothes, assumed the name Charles Hamilton and took up an apprenticeship with a physician. Hamilton eventually opened up his own practice and married Mary Price. In the months following their marriage, Mary Price declared that she had been deceived and that not only was Charles Hamilton actually Mary Hamilton but that he or she had married fourteen other women. 

The case went to trial and made headlines, sparking controversy over the nature of the crime. Specifically, what constituted polygamy, and was it still polygamy if the relationship was between women?

Hamilton was eventually charged with impersonating a man and being a vagrant, and was publicly whipped in four different towns and imprisoned. The story was fictionalized in Henry Fielding’s popular story from 1746, The Female Husband.

By 1752, Hamilton may have ended up in Philadelphia, working as a doctor. Detained for fraud after having been discovered to be a woman, Hamilton was soon released because no one came forward with accusations.


Sources:


Bowles, Emily.  “You Have Not What You Ought: Gender and Corporeal Intelligibility in Henry Fielding’s The Female Husband.” Genders Online Journal. Issue 52. 2010.

Norton, Rictor. “Lesbian Marriages in 18th Century England”, Lesbian History, 18 August 2009, updated 11 February 2010.

Ó Danachair, Donal. ed. “Mary Hamilton a woman who was imprisoned and whipped for marrying fourteen women, 1746.” The Newgate Calendar Vol. 3 (2009): 35. Ex-classics Project. Web. 2010.

Rupp, Leila J.  Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women.  New York University Press, 2009.