The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 27th January

Another day another no show – no birthday and I’m late posting the birthday card too.  So standing in for 27th January is Mary Ann Talbot 1778-1803 also known as John Taylor, a famous cross dresser – so famous someone tried to impersonate her and was arrested for it!

Mary Ann was raped and forced to cross dress by her rapist so that they could travel freely, first in the navy and then the army. When the man was killed in battle Mary Ann was unable to  return to her previous life as she was stranded abroad, and instead continued in her role as John Taylor. However, she was in no hurry to get back into skirts once she was safe, and had a long career as a soldier and sailor before being wounded so severely it was impossible. She then resorted to a genteel form of begging and trying to get a pension out of the government, she ended up in and out of  prison for debt, and seemed to have a knack for getting into scrapes, often getting out of them again through the kindness of women who felt sympathy for her.

You can read her entire memoir here

Here are a couple of snippets to entertain you, she’s quite amusing.

The only circumstance of an unpleasant nature that occurred during my stay in America, arose from the strong partiality which the Captain’s niece conceived to my company, and which proceeded to such an extent, as to induce her to make me an offer of her hand in marriage.—I made several excuses, but could not divert her attention from what she proposed. Mrs. Field at length becoming acquainted with the circumstance, made great objection to my youth and inexperience of the world; but neither my excuses, nor Mrs. Field’s remonstrances had any weight, opposed to the young lady’s inclination, which she fondly cherished to the last hour of my residence at Rhode Island. She requested before Mrs. Field, that I would make her a present of my picture; for which purpose I sat for a miniature at New York, in the full uniform of an American officer—for this picture I paid eighteen dollars. The time of our departure for England being arrived, I took my leave, not without regret, of Mrs. Field, and family; but had scarcely proceeded two miles on the way to New York, before I was summoned back, being overtaken by a servant, who informed the Captain and myself, that we must return, as the young lady was in strong fits. We returned, and found her still in a fit, out of which, with great difficulty, we recovered her; and by making her a promise of a speedy return from England, she very reluctantly allowed me to depart.


While thus situated, I was enabled to enjoy many comforts which this charitable institution does not supply, from the benevolent attention of Mrs. Emma Raynes, a lady to whom I shall ever confess my obligations, as, immediately on my obtaining a discharge from the hospital, she provided me with a decent lodging in Tottenham Court Road, and supported me for a considerable time at her own expense, though I had no other claim to her protection than my necessitous condition. Previous to my finding a friend in this lady, it was judged by several in the hospital, from the low state I was reduced to, (my bones coming almost through the skin) that I should not survive the illness under which I laboured, from the pain of my wounded limb, and I procured some little necessaries from a subscription made by the young gentlemen, pupils, who attended the hospital; one of whom, named Scaife, in joke, I imagine, offered me half-a-crown a week while I lived, to have my body when dead.


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