First published in 1815, The Female Marine
purported to be the autobiography of a woman who, in order to escape the shame of having a child out of wedlock and subsequent work as a prostitute, disguised herself as a boy and joined the Marines. The popularity of this narrative led to its being reprinted 19 times in 3 years and gave rise to a series of sequels, also included in this modern edition. This is a lively tale full of duels, piracy, and swashbuckling. It is also a sobering study about what a woman in early 19th-century America had to do to achieve some level of independence. Cross-dressing for this protagonist is not about performing; it is about saving her life. In addition to the action-filled plot and astute cultural observations, this book has wonderfully florid 19th-century prose that makes it appropriate for reading aloud.
"The woeful yet exciting tale of Lucy Brewer, girl adventurer, puts an unexpected twist on the classic seduction narrative, and its multiple editions and sequels have confused historians for nearly two centuries: was the story truth or fiction? Daniel A. Cohen's painstaking account of the construction of the tale is a model for how historians evaluate and authenticate evidence."―Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara
"As a text for classroom adoption, The Female Marine
is wonderfully readable and intellectually provocative. It should find ready audiences in scholars and students working on women's history, American culture, and cross-dressing."―Elizabeth Young, Mount Holyoke College