Author to speak on transgender history

Author and scholar Jen Manion will appear at the University of Southern Maine on Wednesday, March 22, to discuss their book “Female Husbands: A Trans History.”

Manion, Professor of History and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College, will be hosted by USM’s Women and Gender Studies Program and the Office of the Provost.

Manion’s book recovers the lives of people assigned female who lived as men and married women in the 18th and 19th centuries in the U.S. and U.K. They were then described as female husbands. They persisted in living as men despite tremendous risk, violence, and punishment. When husbands were outed, the press reported such accounts enthusiastically and frequently, exposing dynamic, contested, and varied stories of love, courage, and loss. This talk explores what female husbands teach about trans expressions, experiences, and rights then and now.

“We are thrilled to host Professor Manion at the University of Southern Maine,” said Dr. Ashley Towle, Assistant Professor in the Department of History. “Professor Manion’s research uncovers the rich and vibrant history of people assigned female at birth who transed gender to live as men in the 18th and 19th centuries. Given that transgender people’s rights are currently under attack, Professor Manion’s talk is especially timely as it shows how trans people have persisted in expressing themselves despite prejudice and discrimination.”

The event will be held Wednesday at Hannaford Hall on the Portland Campus. It begins at 6:30 p.m. with a public reception. Manion’s lecture starts at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a Q&A with Women and Gender Studies faculty from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. A book signing will follow. 

The event also will be live streamed and can be seen here.

All parts of the event are open to the public. 

Manion is a social and cultural historian whose work examines the role of gender and sexuality in American life. “Female Husbands: A Trans History” was a 2021 finalist for the Lawrence W. Levine Award by the Organization of American Historians.