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

Lisbetha Olsdotter was originally from Östuna Parish in Långhundra District, Uppland, in Sweden. Leaving behind a husband and two children, Lisbetha 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. Mats Ersson performed all of his duties as a soldier and married, in a church ceremony, the maid Kjerstin Ersdotter.

On October 24, 1679, Mats Ersson was brought before the Svea Court of Appeals in Stockholm and charged with maliciously deserting their husband and two children; wearing male clothing and disguising themself as a man, which was an abomination and a great offense to God; bigamy, for marrying twice and deceiving a 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 they were not capable of performing, i.e., soldier.

They were found guilty of all charges under county law by the Religious Charter of 1655. For intentionally mutating their sex, mocking God and His order, and deceiving their fellow Christians, they were 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 their execution in male clothing but wearing a female headdress. They were decapitated on Hötorget (Haymarket square) in Stockholm.


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