I found this week’s readings to be some of the most fascinating of the semester. When I first read the McClintock chapter on Cullwick and Munby, I felt really hopeless for Hannah Cullwick. I couldn’t imagine how she could really be benefitting from her relationship with Munby. Then McClintock mentioned that even after the two were married, Cullwick retained her last name and kept her own finances. She was able to work outside of the home during the day, then participate in whatever types of role-playing and fetishes Munby had in mind.
Additionally, the “Disordering Bodies” reading cites Munby as running into women who dressed as men in order to work better jobs or earn more money. “Richard Bruce” was a woman who played the part of a man in order to work jobs that were not ordinarily within the female sphere—she was a dockworker and a miner, and she told Munby that she planned to find work as a piano player (again/still dressed as a man).
In another of my courses, we discussed that during this time period, at least in America, women were trying to break out of their traditional roles and build lives for themselves independent of those of their husbands. It’s interesting that in Britain during this era, women were finding ways to break the mold, even if they may have to appear to be subservient or dress as someone they are not. Prior to these readings, it had never occurred to me that someone in Cullwick’s position could be thought of as having power, and I never would have thought that women during this time would have thought to forego their gender identities in order to make the life they wanted.