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Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar (Svenarum 1688 – Björnskog in Hultsjö 1733) was a Swedish corporal and crossdresser who served during the Great Northern War. She was put on trial for having served as a military posing as a man and for marrying a woman. She has been the object of plays, literature, research and exhibitions.

Background[]

Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar was born to lieutenant-colonel Johan Stålhammar (d. 1711), himself a veteran of the war, but who became almost ruined after his retirement in 1702. Ulrika later stated, that she had always enjoyed the tasks usually given to men over those seen as fit for females, that she had hardly learned any female tasks at all and that people who had seen her hunt and ride had told her that it was a shame that she was not a man, for in that case, her talents would have "been of more use in the world".[1] At the death of her parents, she and her five sisters were left without money, and had to rely on the charity of relatives and enter arranged marriages with people whom they considered to be below their standards to support themselves. Ulrika, who had watched her sisters enter unpleasant marriages, did not wish to marry, and one night, she dressed herself in her father's clothes, stole a horse from the stable and ran away from home. She took on the name of Vilhelm Edstedt. She worked for a time as taffeltäckare at Governor Mannerborg and servant to lieutenant Casper Johan Berch.

Military career and marriage[]

Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar enlisted in the army as an artillerist in Kalmar in 1713 under the name of William Edstedt, and remained in the army for thirteen years. She was eventually promoted to the rank of corporal. In 1716, she fell in love with a maid named Maria Lönnman and married her. It was later reported that Löhnman thought that Stålhammar was impotent, but that she was content to live without sex as she had previously been the victim of rape. Ulrika eventually revealed her sex, and they continued to live happily in what was later described as a union of "spiritual love".[2]

In 1724, her sister Catherine learned of what she had done. Shocked over both the crossdressing and the same sex marriage, she wrote to Ulrika that she had committed a "sin against the will of God".[3] Ulrika then promised to leave the army, but she did not do this for two years. She and Maria sought refuge with her wealthy aunt, Sophia Drake, and asked for her protection. Ulrika hid out in the country for two years, so that she could gradually get used to wearing women's clothing again, while Maria worked as a housekeeper at her aunt's mansion.

Trial and verdict[]

To pose as a member of the opposite sex was, under the current law, a serious religious crime which could be punishable by death. In 1728, Ulrika went to Denmark and wrote a letter of confession to the Swedish government and asked for its pardon.[4] She then returned to Sweden where she was put on trial. Stålhammar asked the King for pardon because of: "My weak gender, who if only with the deepest humility, loyalty and steadfastness in then years served the Swedish crown".[5] After consulting the Bible, Stålhammar was charged with having "violated the order of God" by dressing as a man, and with "making a mockery of marriage" by marrying a member of the same sex.[6] Stålhammar was also charged for having married a member of the same sex, Maria Löhnman. She confessed that she had been taken by "a strong love" for Löhnman and had decided "to live and to die with her".[7] She claim to have fallen in love with her during a dream, and proposed to her. After some time of courting and correspondence, Löhnman had accepted her proposal. Fourteen days after their wedding, Stålhammar, "after many sighs and tears", had confessed to Löhnman that she was perhaps not the "right man", and revealed herself.[8] Maria Löhnman had reproached her, but promised not to reveal her so that not to cause her harm and finally said: "If it is so, do not mourn. Thanks to God, that has never been a concern for me".[9] Maria Löhnman testified that she had initially thought Stålhammar to be a hermaphrodite. But she confessed that she had loved Stålhammar even more since she had found out her true sex, and that she could never have betrayed her but instead prayed to God that the matter would never be revealed and that Stålhammar would not be called out to serve so that they could be with each other forever. The couple both denied to the court that they had any sexual contact with each other. Before Stålhammar revealed herself, Löhnman had laid upon her arm, nothing more. Stålhammar also claimed that she had fallen in love with Löhnman because of her virtue, and several witnesses testified that the couple was known for their virtue. When the court asked Stålhammar how she could have lived a married life for ten years without men, she replied that: "as she, thanks to God, never had any debauched thoughts and even less so any natural lust, there was never any need for her to associate with any male person".[10] The court asked Löhnman if she and Stålhammar ever "had any of the love exercise of the sort married couples have?", upon which she answered: "No, she never did nor invite it".[11] The court were curious how Stålhammar had managed to pass for a male, and had a midwife examine her physically. The midwife reported that she was completely normally developed, except for the lack of breasts.[12] However, the judges were also impressed and intrigued with her. She was from Småland, which reminded people of the legendary female warrior Blenda, who was also from Småland. The court Göta hovrätt passed the sentence that the marriage had broken the law of God and nature, but acquitted them from the charge of homosexuality, as they decided to believe the testimonies that the couple had lived in a marriage without sex. This caused the judges to view the marriage favorably, as it was "of the purest, most spiritual kind, a union of virtue".[13] Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar's sentence was therefore limited to one month by King Frederick I of Sweden. The King also specified that during her imprisonment, it would not be necessary to let her live merely "on water and bread".[14] Maria Löhnman was judged to eight days' imprisonment for homosexuality.

After this, the couple lived a quiet life on the estates of Ulrika's relatives. Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar lived with relatives at Hultsjö manor, while Maria Löhnman was employed as a house keeper to Stålhammar's aunt, Sofia Drake af Torp och Hamra, at Salshult Manor. Letters display Ulrika Stålhammar's and Maria Löhnman's love for each other. Ulrika died in 1733, and Maria continued as a housekeeper until her death in 1761.

Context[]

During the early modern age, there were several cases of women serving in the Swedish army posing as men. Previously, there had been the case of Brita Olofsdotter, who served in the Swedish cavalry in the war in Livonia in 1569, and the case of Lisbetha Olsdotter, was convicted and executed for serving as a soldier under the name of Mats Ersson. Theses cases did in fact reach somewhat of a top during the early 18th-century.[15] Contemporary to Ulrika Eleonora Stålhammar, Anna Jöransdotter and Margareta Elisabeth Roos both served in the army of Charles XII of Sweden during the Great Northern War: in the case of Roos unconfirmed, as she was never trialed, but Anna Jöransdotter served under the name Johan Haritu until she was discovered in 1714,[16] and a third woman is known to have been whipped for her service as a soldier during the campaign in Norway, but continued to be seen in male clothing on the streets of Stockholm until 1740s, where she was known as "The Rider".[17][18]

There was a certain awareness about the phenomena among the public: in 1715, during a trial against male homosexuality, the soldier Jürgen Wiess defended himself by claiming that the only reason to why he had reacted willingly to the sexual advances of a male corporal was because he believed the corporal to be a woman in disguise, as it was known that there were to be several disguised women among the soldiers[19]

In Culture[]

Plays have been performed about "The amazon of Charles XII", in 2004-2005 by Calmare Gycklare.

See also[]

References[]

  • Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  • Stålhammar, Ulrika Eleonora (1864). In Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor. Stockholm: P. G. Berg.

Notes[]

  1. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  2. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  3. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  4. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  5. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  6. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  7. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  8. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  9. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  10. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  11. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  12. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  13. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  14. Alf Åberg (Swedish) : Karolinska Kvinnoöden (Fates of Carolinian Women)
  15. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  16. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)
  17. http://magasin.kb.se:8080/searchinterface/page.jsp?issue_id=kb:145110&sequence_number=3&recordNumber=&totalRecordNumber=
  18. Wilhelmina Stålberg (Swedish): Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Notes about Swedish women) (1864)
  19. Borgström Eva, ed (2002). Makalösa kvinnor: könsöverskridare i myt och verklighet (Marvelous Women: genderbenders in myth and reality) Stockholm: Alfabeta/Anamma. Libris 8707902. ISBN 91-501-0191-9 (inb.)(Swedish)

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