Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stand and Deliver - Some Ladies of the Road

My new Regency Historical, Unmasked, hits US bookstores in July and is already available on the internet. It features the adventures of the Glory Girls, a band of highwaywomen who fight to right wrongs and address social injustice in a world where women's roles were often restricted by the traditions and demands of society.

When I was researching Unmasked I had a fine time reading about the exploits of female highwaymen. Highway robbery on horseback required physical strength, courage and aggression, qualities which David Brandon in his book Stand and Deliver notes are not necessarily the prerogative of the male sex! The first recorded female highwayman was Moll Cutpurse who was apparently a hoyden who was adept with her fists and a quarterstaff! In the days of the Commonwealth she held up General Fairfax when he was crossing Hounslow Heath and relieved him of a fortune in gold coin.

Another famous lady of the road was Catherine Ferrers, whose exploits were turned into the film "The Wicked Lady." Catherine apparently turned to a life of crime because she was bored with her marriage to an older man! She enjoyed seeing strong men quail when she pointed a pistol at them.

The outfit of choice for highwaywomen was the exact dress of their male counterparts; masks, cloaks, tricorne hats and riding boots, and they rode astride since side saddle would probably have given the game away!

There is more about Unmasked, plus and extract and special celebration contest on my website.


Inspire said...

I did not know about the lady highwaymen. Very interesting to read about them and their exploits. Unmasked sounds like a fun read.

Erastes said...

I adore the very idea of highwaymen and as a child remember being utterly furious that I couldn't be one.

However you might find this article from The Gentleman's Magazine from 1755 where at least one lady was not afraid to say she was a lady and rode side-saddle.

I'm rather inspired now, to write about a man, dressing as a women - holding up coaches to put the authorities off the scent!

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you for the comments and many thanks for the link as well, erastes. I must admit that I like the plot idea of cross-dressing highwaymen! Have you read about the Rebecca Riots? I have a fascinating book about them. They were a bit later than the Regency - 1830s I think - and were protests against the turnpike system but the rioters disguised themselves as women.

Melinda Hammond said...

Fascinating stuff! I also hae David Brandon's book (it's very useful for our line of work)and I loved the Wicked Lady film! Can't wait to read this latest book of yours, Nicola.


kate tremayne said...

This is my kind of book. Hope you will be putting up an extract for our delight. I wager you had a great time writing it. You write beautiful sensuous romance and coupled with high adventure, this one must be totally unputdownable. Great post as an added bonus.