Lisbetha Olsdotter, (d. 1679), was a Swedish female cross-dresser who was executed on a number of different charges after having dressed as a man, served as a soldier and married a woman.
In 24 October 1679 Svea Hovrätt in Stockholm brought the charges, earlier raised in the court of Långhundra Häradsting. Lisbetha Olsdotter is reported to have been originally from Tysslinge torp in Östuna parish in Långhundra Härad.
The trial Edit
Lisbetha had ran away from home and abandoned her husband and her children. According to the documents, a soldier's widow, Sara, had originally advised her to dress as a man in order to seduce the vivacious widow Maria.
In 1678, she was a servant at the household of the country administrator Jon Persson in Alby in Botkyrka under the name Mats Ersson. With the help of the master mariner Erik Persson Arnelii, who knew her biological sex, she enlisted as a soldier, and gave Arnelii some of her salary as thanks for his help and his silence.
She was present in all the military drills and performed all her duties as a soldier, and married, according to all traditional ceremonies of the church, the maid Kerstin Ersdotter.
She was put on trial for several charges:
- Abandonment of husband and children;
- Wearing of male clothing, which was forbidden in the Bible, and the crime of secular fraud by pretending to be a man;
- Bigamy, as she married when she already had a husband;
- Homosexuality, and having ridiculed the holy act of marriage by marrying someone of the same sex;
- Theft, after having received salary as a soldier;
- Fraud, for taking a profession she was not capable of performing.
She was judged guilty of the charges under the law of the act of religion from 1655; for having, with full intent, "mutilated" her gender, "mocked God and the Order of God", and fooled authorities and her "fellow Christians" by impersonating a man. She was sentenced to death by decapitation.
Sara and Arnelii, who had helped her, were also to be arrested. The case, however, was so unusual, that the verdict was to be confirmed by the highest Royal court in the country first.
The Royal court confirmed the verdict on 12 November, and ordered the priests to clarify for her what sin she had committed in the eyes of religion. It was decided by the court, that she would go to her execution dressed as a man, but with a female headgear. She was decapitated on Hötorget in Stockholm in 1679.
There were, from the late 16th Century to the early 19th Century, several known cases of women impersonating men, especially in the beginning of the 18th Century. The most famous one was the case of Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar in 1728. Most of these cases did not lead to an execution, as this one had; an unnamed woman, who served i the Great Northern War, was whipped as a punisment, but continued to wear male clothing on the streets of Stockholm until the 1740s, were she was known as the "The Rider", and Maja Jansdotter, who was put on trial in Stockholm in 1706 for having dressed as man and served as a perish clerk, was given a sentence of eight days in jail and then let free.
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