If you paid attention to history, you’d know that men had the freedom to do as they pleased while women were expected to quietly fulfill their wifely and motherly duties. Some did just that, but there was a small group who went against the grain and forged their own path ahead. Knowing how much resistance they would meet, these women knew they had to hide who they really were. And that’s exactly what they did! Here are five women who achieved great things by pretending to be men.
1. Margaret Ann Bulkley aka Dr. James Berry
In a time where women could not get a formal education, let alone attend and practice medicine, Margaret Ann Bulkley went to great lengths to rebel against societal norms. After moving from London to Ireland with her mother, she adopted the identity of her late uncle James Berry and never looked back. For over 50 years, she gained the reputation of a highly skilled physician and is even credited for being the first European doctor to perform a successful C-section. Her secret was only revealed after her death during a medical examination.
2. Deborah Sampson aka Robert Shurtleff
In our modern society, women can enlist in the military if that’s what they want to do. But it was impossible for a woman in the late 1700s to serve her country during the Revolutionary War. That’s why Deborah Sampson pretended to be one of the guys, going by the name Robert Shurtleff. She was assigned to a light infantry company as a scout where she led 30 infantrymen into combat and captured 15 of them. Even after her truth was discovered, the state of Massachusetts still treated her respectfully; she was given an honorable discharge and a military pension.
3. Charlotte D. Parkhurst aka One-Eyed Charley
One of California’s most infamous stagecoach drivers nicknamed “One-Eyed Charley” was actually a woman born Charlotte D. Parkhurst. Stagecoach driving was an especially dangerous occupation even for a man thanks to the harsh weather, lack of roads and slew of bandits. But Charlotte didn’t let this deter her and she became known as “the boss of the road” due to her professionalism and daring exploits. Her disguise was very convincing as the truth was only discovered shortly after her death at 67 years old.
4. Jeanne Louise Antonini
Jeanne Louise Antonini managed to successfully fool everyone during her 25-year long career in the male-dominated Navy and Army. As a young orphan, she posed as a boy and became a member of the frigate, La Cornélie. She later joined the French Army, rising to the rank of Sergeant and retired 15 years later due to a severe head wound. For her nearly three decades of service to her country, Jeanne Louise Antonini was honored with a Saint Helena Medal and had a street in the city of Nantes, France named after her.
5. Marina the Monk aka Marinos the Monk
Marina the Monk created her own destiny when she learned of her father’s plan to marry her off. Instead of becoming a wife, she chose to live with him as a monk and with his support, the two joined a monastery in the Kadisha Valley under the name Marinos. While working there, a false assault accusation led to her becoming homeless for a while. After her secret was revealed upon her death, the abbot broke down realizing that he punished her unfairly. She was later venerated as a Saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Coptic Orthodox Church.
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