Counterfeit Ladies

The Life and Death of Mary Frith the Case of Mary Carleton

232 pages

January, 1995

ISBN: 9780814782149


Janet Todd's most recent book is Mary Wollstonecraft. She is Professor of English at the University of East Anglia.

All books by Janet Todd

Elizabeth Spearing is currently completing her doctorate on seventeenth-century writing.

All books by Elizabeth Spearing

Accused of transvestism and trickery, indicted for bigamy and hanged for robbery, Mary Carleton, the German Princess, was the most notorious female rogue of her time. Mary Frith, alias Mal Cutpurse, was a similarly spectacular transgressor: a resident of London's infamous Alsatia district, a criminal sanctuary between Fleet Street and the Thames, she was renowned for strolling the streets of seventeenth-century London in men's clothes.

The Case of Mary Carleton and The Life and Death of Mary Frith, are reprinted here for the first time, since their original publication in 1663 and 1662 respectively. In the tradition of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, these are the semi-fictional biographies of these two extraordinary criminals. They reveal to us a world in which women smoked in taverns, drank to excess in alehouses, and regaled revelers with anecdotes around a fire—all perilous activities for a woman in a society which considered modesty, silence, and obedience the feminine virtues of the day.