Happy Thanksgiving in Honor of A Rebel in Herstory: La Maupin

Bread rolls and gender roles

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate this holiday (which is probably most of you because most of my readers are from the US)! It’s a holiday I enjoy because I have time off from school, but it’s not a perfect holiday by any means. Not only does it have a gory past, but the holiday is still, for most households, a scene straight out of the sixties: the women cook in the kitchen while the men relax. I would give you a more vivid analysis of this too-common scene, but Linda Lowen does an excellent job of this so I’ll send you over to look at hers instead.

Personally, I had a very untraditional Thanksgiving; because I didn’t want to fly home for such a short break, I ended up staying in my dorm room and so yesterday I slept in, made a statue of Princess Leia out of snow, cooked eggplant pasta with my girlfriend, and watched Gilmore Girls for nostalgia’s sake. What did you do for Thanksgiving?

Anyway, for all of the women who spent their Thanksgiving in the kitchen with their hands inside a turkey’s ass and resenting the guys just a little, here’s a true story about  a women who never took any shit from any man.

What do sword fighting, opera singing, the 1600s, cross-dressing, nunnery heists, and avoiding death sentences (by fire) have to do with each other? Julie D’Aubigny, or “La Maupin,” as she is nicknamed, was a master of them all.

Honestly, not too much is known about her except that no one knew what to do with her. Born in 1670, Julie D’Aubigny was born into a wealthy life and taught how to ride horses and handle a sword by her father, who was fairly badass himself because he trained pages for King Louis the XIV. She quickly became too much for him to handle, though, when at the age of 16 she slept with his boss. After that, she was married off to some Maupin guy who lived in the colonies. D’Aubigny didn’t go off to live with him, though. Instead, she galavanted around France doing all kinds of extraordinarily naughty things. For a full and entertaining biography, read all about her here, but in case you are pressed for time I’ll give you the highlights:

  • She gave singing and fencing demonstrations in the streets, challenging crowd members to duel, singing humiliating songs about those challenged, then easily defeating them. She wore men’s clothing but once, upon being accused of being a man, opened up her underthings so the crowd could judge her sex for themselves.
  • She became an incredible opera singer and had an almost photographic memory, making her a very fast learner.
  • She had flings with lots of women, but with one woman in particular was thrown into a nunnery by her horrified parents. D’Aubigny followed her to this nunnery, joined it, stole the body of a recently-dead nun to put in her lover’s bed, and set the room on fire so that they could easily escape together. For this, she was charged as a man with body-snatching, kidnapping, and arson, the penalty for which was death by fire, but she escaped to Paris instead.
  • In 1695, she kissed a woman at a society ball and was consequently challenged  to a duel by three outraged noblemen; she of course beat them all.

How’s that for a 17th century woman?