Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today in 1679: Swedish Woman Charged With Marrying a Woman

Lisbetha Olsdotter was a Swedish woman, who was charged today, October 24, 1679, with dressing as a man, serving as a soldier, and marrying a woman. 

Olsdotter had run away from home and abandoned her husband and children. According to court documents, a soldier's widow, named Sara, had originally advised Olsdotter to dress as a man in order to seduce a vivacious widow.

In 1678, she was a servant in 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 that she was female, she enlisted as a soldier, and gave Arnelii some of her salary as thanks for his help and 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. After the wedding, however, Kerstin Ersdotter discovered the biological gender of her groom, and reported Lisbetha Olsdotter to the authorities.

Olsdotter 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 Ersdotter 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; and fraud, for taking up a profession she was not capable of performing.

Olsdotter 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. The woman she had married, Kerstin Ersdotter, claimed that she had been as fooled as every one else and was therefore judged as a victim of the crime rather than an accomplice to it.

Sara and Arnelii, who had helped her, were also arrested. It is not known what punishment they received.

The Royal court confirmed the guilty verdict on November 12.  She was executed shortly thereafter. It was decided she would go to her execution dressed as a man, but wear female headgear.

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