Mary Frith Haiku

Let the ladies smoke,

Then they’ll be thieving, pimping,

Dressing as dudes.

Gaze upon this picture and you’ll be gazing in the face of a woman who gave no damns.

Mary Frith, also known as Moll Cutpurse, died 359 years ago today. Born in 1584, it wasn’t long before she started being indicted for swiping things that did not belong to her. Her minister uncle attempted to send her to go get reformed in the colonies, but she jumped overboard before the ship sailed and swam back to shore.

From there, she turned it up to 11. Crossdressing, smoking tobacco (apparently the first woman in England to do so), fencing stolen goods, performing on stage, carousing in the streets, picking fights, oh my! Yes, she was prosecuted for crossdressing, but she used her public penances to put on a show.

She also kept a sparkling clean house (my sainted mom would approve), bedecked with mirrors and feminine touches, and babied her mastiffs. She cooked their food herself, and had comfy beds with sheets and pillows for each of them. And she kept parrots!

Mary did marry, but more for the legal protection it gave her as a non-spinster. (In exchange, her husband got dough.) While she was personally uninterested in sex, that didn’t stop her from seeing the profit potential of it, as she procured women for men and vice versa. If children happened, she got the men to help support them.

At age 60, when the Civil War broke out, she turned highwaywoman and robbed Parliamentarians, because really. Did she seem like the type to support the puritan Cromwell? Nah, she was with the partying Royalists.

Mary didn’t die by a hangman’s noose (although she did get close, escaping by spending a stint in Bethlem) or anything so grizzly, but at the ripe old age of 74 while suffering from edema. Two plays were written about her exploits in her lifetime and she probably had a lot of fun watching them.

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