Play remembers Fanny and Stella



Fanny and Stella – Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton | Essex Record Office | 15105

The Guardian reviews the play “Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story” by Glenn Chandler. Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton were two cross dressing, possibly trans men who attempted to get the law changed in Victorian England. The press of the time called them the He-She-Ladies. Their attempts to mix and mingle in normal society got them into endless scrapes with the police force, and resulted in them being sent for trial.

Chandler sums up the result of the six day trial:

“The jury at the end of the day saw it all rather as a joke, light-hearted banter, and there was no proof of sodomy.”

Fanny and Stella’s trial – postponed for a year after their arrest – for “conspiring to incite others to commit unnatural offences” – at the Strand Theatre in 1870, when they appeared in Bow Street magistrates court the next morning still in their evening gowns, was farcical. The jury took less than an hour to return not guilty verdicts.

The police came under pressure to start looking into the sexual lives of citizens, bringing to court men who dressed as women, usually charged with soliciting or public order offences. But the line-crosser was sodomy, something the prosecution, despite sending six doctors to intimately and brutally examine the bodies of Fanny and Stella while they were in Newgate prison, failed to prove.

“People thought they were women, especially Stella, he was the most feminine of the two. Fanny was a bit more like my grandmother and definitely the underdog of the two,” said Chandler.

Fanny and Stella, alas, failed to get the law changed.



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