Rebels Across History

The Roaring Girl: Mary Frith

We're going way the hell back into history to talk about the loudest rebel of the time: Mary Frith. Commonly called "Moll Cutpurse" ("Cutpurse" coming from her pickpocketing habit of slashing purses), Moll was born in 1584 in Aldgate, London. From the very beginning, she defied her well-meaning parents by "roaming the streets of London and fighting with the boys". In that day and age, women were to be bred for marriage and child-raising-- definitely not work, and definitely not the single life. But Moll instead claimed she would die a virgin (although she was happy acting as a pimp to friends and clients). She dabbled in all sorts of crime-- from pickpocketing to highway robbery. For her first grand scheme, she set up a shop where she would recieve stolen goods, then charge their owners a fee to get them back. This worked marvelously until a robbery victim (whose watch had been stolen) brought the PoPo along and Moll was arrested. She arranged for a friend to steal the watch again from court, and was set free on lack of evidence.

One of her following ventures was a brothel, where she matched not only men with young women, but also bored housewives with male lovers. She operated from her Fleet Street home, which she called "a double temple of Priapus and Venus".

Moll was notorious in the underside of London's society, for her relentless exhibitionism and lewdness. She was known for wearing men's clothing, being the "first woman in England" to smoke a pipe, and for her deep love of alcohol. In 1610, she was the subject of a play entitled Madde Pranckes of Mery Mall of the Bankside by John Day. A year later, Roaring Girl was written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. A ghosted autobiography was published three years after Moll's death, titled "The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith"-- all to great success.

Mary Frith was surely no role model for her means of making money, but she does deserve a mention as a rebel for challenging society's expectations, and having a laugh while at it.

Sources: Women Out of Bounds by Jane Robinson
The Roaring Girl
The Rogue Gallery

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for following my blog : )

    I LOVE this blog idea. Powerful, rebellious women? Hell yes. I saw in a prior entry you feautred Amanda Palmer-oh I think I'm in love.

    Besides her colorful career I loved that Mary rocked men's clothing. One of the reason I love Katherine Hepburn. Let them wear pants!!


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