Once more, no candidate for the 24th January, so here is Catalina de Erauso 1585 – 1650ish – cross-dresser, soldier, adventurer, aka Antonio de Arauso, Alonzo Dias, the nun lieutenant.
A word of warning: Catalina’s ‘memoirs’ weren’t published until the 19th Century. I’ve read two translations of what seem to be the same passage that are radically different; so it could all be a load of bosh – though no one ever seems to have queried it. Anyone who has read the original care to comment?
Born in the Basque region, Catalina escaped from her convent school aged 14 and immediately transformed herself into a boy, so convincing that even her brother didn’t recognise her.
I went out of the convent; I found myself in the street, without knowing where to go; that was no matter, all I wanted was liberty.
Taking a fancy to her brother’s mistress, however, led to a fist fight and Catalina being shipped off to South America as a soldier. She spent her time fighting as a soldier and getting herself into trouble, fighting numerous duels, until she admitted who she was to get herself out of yet another fix. She spent two years in a nunnery (without taking any vows) before getting back to Spain where she was awarded a military pension.
In this attempt I may find death; but remaining here I shall certainly find it. (Crossing the deserts of the Andes)
I think caution should be employed when considering whether to invite Catalina to tea – she would be likely to start a fight.