Thursday, June 13, 2013

girls will be boys: part one

I will call the final section of chapter two in A Queer History of the United States Girls Will Be Boys. It talks about three extraordinary women that deserve they're own separate post. That's how intrigued I am by them.
    The first is Jamina Wilkinson [1752-1819]. Jamina was an evangelical preacher, but she was anything but ordinary. After a near death struggle with the Columbus fever [typhoid] she believed that Christ had entered her body and spared her life so she could spread his word. So, in 1775, she began a regional tour to do just that. She changed her name to Publick Universal Friend and refused to use the pronouns he or she, or her real name, ever again. She also began to dress in gender neutral clerical clothing that made her sex undetectable.
    S/he preached fire and brimstone evangelical sermons that advocated strict sexual abstinence, strict adherence to the ten commandments, unconditional friendship with all people and an apocalyptic version of the Bible. S/he became a sensation in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts and people flocked to hear Publick speak.
    By the 1780's the popular press and pamphlet community were printing her sermons in detail and distributing them widely. They not only printed her sermons but they harped on her gender enigmatic persona. But all of Publick's press publicity was not flattering. Some papers condemned  and discredited Publick's preaching and sought to ''expose'' Publick.
    Despite all this S/he developed a huge following and eventually began a religious settlement in New York state called the Universal Society of Friends. The society based it's philosophy on Quaker theology, which was Publick's religious base from birth. One interesting thing about the societies views was that ones soul/spirit or what we might today call ''energy'' never dies, it only ''leaves time.'' I don't know what triggered Publick's gender neutral style, and we don't know Publick's sexual orientation, but I don't think it was merely a gimmick. Publick ''left time'' on July 1, 1819.

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