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Brand: Neil McKenna

Fanny And Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England

by Neil McKenna

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Fanny & Stella : The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian Britain

28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls.

Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women.

Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall.

As the trial of 'the Young Men in Women's Clothes' unfolded, Fanny and Stella's extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, Fanny and Stella is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, Fanny and Stella is an enthralling tour-de-force.

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The trial of Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, the "funny she-he ladies" was a Victorian sensation. Arrested dressed as women they were charged with sodomy and affronts to public decency and the scandal threatened politicians, the godson of the Prime Minister and the US Counsel. This is the seamy side of Victorian London, home to prostitutes, rent boys and drag balls where blind eyes were turned because it was emotionally or economically convenient so to do. Victoria would not have been amused. Based on trial records, witness statements and newspaper reports this is history told by a gossipy friend as full of puns and innuendo as fact. Although it fails to address some of the wider issues of transgender identity this is a fascinating read. Sally Hughes Assistant Retail Manager