Mary/Charles Hamilton: Eighteenth-Century Female Husband Prosecutions

  • Caroline DerryEmail author


In 1746, travelling quack doctor Charles Hamilton married Mary Price. Within months, Price declared that her husband was in fact a woman. Hamilton was prosecuted, imprisoned, and publicly whipped. The case attracted notoriety thanks to reports in newspapers and in novelist Henry Fielding’s pamphlet The Female Husband; but the original case papers also survive. Through a detailed exploration of Hamilton’s case and its wider context, this chapter considers the motivations and experiences of eighteenth-century female husbands and their wives, husbands’ treatment as female impostors, and the reasons why such cases were prosecuted. It places them in a framework of legal, medical, and societal changes which were transforming eighteenth-century society. Those developments encouraged the emergence of silencing as a viable approach to policing lesbianism—and one which nonetheless allowed for the prosecution of female husbands.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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