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Mary Firth's trousers

María Pérez Ibáñez, 3rd year student of Degree in Literature and Creative Writing, presents us, from her Erasmus stay in London, a very original story about Mary Firth, a woman with a life full of myths and unknowns yet to be clarified.


Mary Firth: nice to meet you. So you were the first woman smoker in England. You go exploring the British Library looking for early Shakespeare manuscripts and you find these things.  

If there was a time machine that could take me back to the late 16th century, I could chat with you for a while. You were better known as Moll Cutpurse, weren't you? While your name, Moll, was a feminine appellation used in your time to refer to women of ill repute, your surname "Cutpurse" literally means "purse-snatcher". This term refers to the technique thieves used to get hold of their victims' purses: with a knife, they cut the strap that held them in place and made their escape. You must have been an expert in this field to deserve such a nickname, right? With these few facts, what I know so far about you is that you were a woman who enjoyed theft, scandal and smoking. Charming. 

Your biography is blurred by the immeasurable number of myths and legends that have been told about you. At the age of twenty-five, your uncle forcibly put you on a ship bound for the Americas as punishment for your unladylike behaviour. agreement Apparently you did not agree with this decision because you jumped overboard, returned to land and decided never to go near your uncle again. 

Another of the anecdotes that were passed around among your contemporaries is the one about the day (do you remember?) when William Bankes bet twenty pounds that you wouldn't dare to walk from Charing Cross to Shoreditch dressed as a man. Well, not only did you dare, but you rode the three miles on the back of the famous horse Morocco while blowing your trumpet. (Fun fact: such was the horse's fame that Shakespeare mentions it in his play Love's Labours Lost). The number of people who gathered in the streets to applaud and boo you was so great that the chaos and shouting of the crowd reached the level of a real revolution Degree . How you loved to attract attention.  

Your adventures were so loud that in 1611 Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker made public the play The Roaring Girl, a fictionalised adaptation of your life. You yourself played the role of Moll Cutpurse in one of the performances. Not content with the scandal of seeing a woman perform, you wanted to take your cheekiness further, so you appeared on stage dressed in men's clothes. 

Mary, your life has given me food for thought. I have taken the trouble to write a short article about you. In the times I live in, women struggle to make their voices heard. We want to be recognised as unique and unrepeatable; especially in the professional sphere. 

However, I believe that women (in your time and mine) must find their worth in their own nature. We must love the way we are and this is not achieved by imitating everything men do. Just as men are proud of themselves without needing to borrow feminine traits, we do not have to look like men in order to feel fulfilled. You, I am sorry to say so frankly, sought to forge lasting fame through your rebelliousness, but seeing the bad reputation that tarnishes your career, I wonder if all that effort was worth it. Are you proud that we remember you as the thieving Moll Cutpurse and not as Miss Mary Firth? I'm sure you were worth a lot more than you thought you were, and that all this pantomime wasn't necessary to let the world know how fabulous you are.   

It is not for me to judge you. Your mastery of the art of theft and theatre, your pipe, your cheek and your trousers force me to censure you, for I consider myself a discreet and feminine woman. But let's be honest: if you appeal to my side as a writer, to that part of me that is devoted to creating tragic, real and moving stories; then I will swallow each and every one of my words and you will have my most ardent admiration. Let this secret remain between us.      

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