Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Gary Kornblith

Committee Member(s)

Pablo Mitchell
Kirk Ormand


Cross dressing, Civil War, 19th Century, Bloomers, Gender, Power


Between 1850 and 1880, Americans obsessed over cross-dressing women. Many women donned the breeches: ruined young daughters of respectable families, honest but poor girls looking for a living, and unseemly women who wished either to explore public places or prostitute themselves. This huge variation in station and intention of cross-dressing women allows an exploration of Victorian identity markers -- not just gender, but also race, class, and respectability. Many of these young ladies were described as Romantic adventurers -- they had heroic and beautiful, but often ultimately tragic, experiences. By studying the social reaction to these individuals, we discover that cross-dressing, paradoxically, was not always socially threatening. Instead the level of acceptance was related to the degree of conformity to both gender and other forms of social status markers.

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