from Lillian Faderman, Scotch Verdict


(New York: Quill, 1983),  p. 68


If they had been very well versed in legal history, they might have known of a few other cases that had come before the British courts in which women were found guilty of homosexual behavior, but, surprisingly, not even the judges or Lady Cumming Gordon's counsel knew of them. The most famous case had been tried by the English novelist Henry Fielding, who was also a judge. In 1746 he wrote about it in a six-penny pamphlet called The Female Husband: or, the Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, Alias Mr. George Hamilton. ...The young woman in the case was a transvestite, brought before the Court when it was discovered that she had married three women while passing as a man. Fielding, who found her guilty, referred in his pamphlet to "something of too vile, wicked, and scandalous a nature which was discovered in her trunk," obviously a dildo. He claimed that it was specifically for possession of that instrument that she was indicted and convicted. She was then "sentenced to be publickly and severely whipt in four market towns within the country of Somerset, and to be imprisoned." Fielding described with great relish "her lovely skin scarified with rods, in such a manner that her back was almost fiead."

But her case was quite different from that of the mistresses. She was a woman of the lower class-which meant to those who judged her that she was capable of behavior that would not be believed of women from more respectable classes. She was a transvestite-she did not look like a female, therefore the passionlessness associated with women did not apply to her: she might be considered as lecherous as any male. And she had been caught with the goods -a dildo: while men might not believe that women could satisfy each other sexually using only what nature bestowed, they could believe that if (as Montaigne said several centuries earlier in describing the prosecution of a transvestite lesbian in France) "she used an instrument to supplement the deficiencies of her sex," she could simulate the heterosexual act effectively enough.