Lisbetha Olsdotter aka Mats Ersson c. 1679 Sweden
gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches
2013
In the collection of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College

Lisbetha Olsdotter was originally from Östuna Parish in Långhundra District, Upland. She left a husband and two children and found work as a servant, a farmhand, and finally as a soldier under the name Mats Ersson. 

According to the records, Lisbetha had assistance from a soldier’s wife, Sara, and a skipper, Erik Persson Arnelii. They kept her history secret, and Arnelii helped her enlist as a soldier. It is noted that Mats Ersson performed all of his duties as a soldier and married, “according to all traditional ceremonies of the church,” the maid Kjerstin Ersdotter.

On October 24, 1679 Lisbetha Olsdotter was brought before the Svea Court of Appeals in Stockholm and charged with: maliciously deserting her husband and two children; wearing male clothing and disguising herself as a man, which was an abomination and a great offense to God; bigamy, for marrying twice and deceiving another woman; publicly mocking God’s sacred order and the customary ceremonies of the community and the Fatherland by marrying another woman in the church of God; theft, for taking payment as a soldier and spending it; and fraud, for taking a profession she was not capable of performing, i.e. soldier.

She was found guilty of all charges under county law by the Religious Charter of 1655. For intentionally mutating her sex, “mocking God and His order” and deceiving her fellow Christians she was sentenced to decapitation by axe. Due to the unusual nature of the case it was sent to the Royal Court for review.

On November 12, 1679 the Royal Court confirmed the verdict and it was decided that Mats would go to her execution in male clothing but wearing female headdress. She was decapitated on Hötorget (Haymarket square) in Stockholm.


Sources:


Borgström, Eva. Makalösa Kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet. Stockholm: AlfabetaAnamma, 2002.

Silverstolpe, Frederick and Göran Söderström. Sympatiens Hemlighetsfulla Makt: Stockholms Homosexuella 1860-1960.  Stockholmia förlag, 1999.

Stålberg, Wilhelmina and P.G. Berg. “Olsdotter, Lisbeth.” Anteckningar om Svenska Qvinnor.  Stockholm, 1864.