9 Women Who Pretended to be Men

1The Irish woman who lived as a man to practice medicine

Dr. James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley in Ireland in 1792. As a young girl, Bulkley wanted to study at university, something that was forbidden to women at that time. However, in 1809, she traveled with her mother to Edinburgh, where she enrolled as James Barry to study medicine and literature.

Bulkley became a doctor in 1812 and was the first woman to do so in Britain. She moved to London, where she qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1813, she was commissioned into the Army as Regimental Assistant. She served at Waterloo, before traveling to India and then South Africa, where she worked as a military doctor and personal surgeon to the Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset. It was while serving as Somerset's physician that the first rumors spread her Barry's gender, as it is believed Barry and Somerset were lovers, and it was here that she gave birth to a child.

For the next 40 years, Barry served as an Army surgeon, until retiring and returning to England where she died a year later. On July 25, 1865, charwoman Sophia Bishop was laying out the body of James Barry when she screamed—her master was a woman.

2The woman who was arrested for posing as a man after marrying another woman

An Indonesian woman who went to great lengths to impersonate a man and even married another woman was detained by police after "his" wife alerted authorities about the deception.

40-year-old Surwati (who, like most Indonesians, goes by a single name) admitted to falsifying her identity and impersonating a man. She had taken the name Muhamad Efendi Saputra and told people “he” was a police officer. Her impersonation skills were apparently stellar—she managed to fool everybody, and even convinced took a wife. After a whirlwind romance, Muhamad married 25-year-old Heniyati in a ceremony on Java island.

The young wife learned that Muhamad was a woman a few months into the marriage. She became suspicious after her husband kept refusing to consummate their union. She went through his things while he was away, and found an identity card that showed he was a woman named Surwati.

Surwati was arrested after her wife alerted police. If she's convicted, she could serve up to seven years for falsifying her identity. Authorities have yet to uncover the reason behind the ruse—although Surwati admitted she had been disappointed by a previous marriage, from which she has a 17-year-old child.

3The Egyptian woman who revealed she had been living as a man for 42 years

In 2015, an Egyptian woman who disguised herself as a man for 42 years to make a living for her daughter after the death of her husband was honored by the government as the “ideal mother” of the Luxor governorate.

The Social Solidarity Directorate of Luxor said it was awarding the “woman breadwinner” award to Sisa Abu Daooh for her years of hard work to provide for her daughter and her grandchildren. The 64-year-old lost her husband while she was pregnant and was left without an income. Women were frowned upon in the workplace, and Sisa was forced to dress as a man and work outside the home to support her daughter, Houda. She worked making bricks and polishing shoes, among other jobs. Eventually, her daughter married a man who fell ill and couldn't work. So, being a resourceful woman, she remained the breadwinner of her family.

She donned a “jilbab”—a loose, full-length robe with wide sleeves—as well as a white turban, or sometimes a men's hat known as a “Taqiyah” and black masculine shoes to pass as a man.

4The woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War

Frances Clalin was born in Illinois in the 1830s and married Ohio-born Elmer L. Clayton with whom she had three children. Clalin also disguised as a man and used the name Jack Williams to enlist in the Union army with her husband during the fall of 1861. An estimated 400 women did likewise.

She and Elmer served side-by-side until he died during the Battle of Stones River (or Murfreesboro) on December 31, 1862. He was only a few feet in front of Frances at the time, but some sources say that she didn't stop fighting—she stepped over his body and charged when the commands came.

Clayton took up all the manly vices. To better conceal her sex, she learned to drink, smoke, chew and swear. She was tall and masculine, had tan skin, stood erect and walked with a soldierly stride. She was said to be an excellent horseman and swordsman who was highly respected.

Rumor has it Clalin's true identity was uncovered in one of two possible ways. After the battle at Stones River in 1863, she let her true identity be known and was discharged a few days later in Louisville. Another story claims that she was wounded at Stones River and was discharged after being discovered.

5The Sci-Fi writer who pretended to be a man to succeed

Writer James Tiptree Jr. was an elusive figure. He gave only one interview in his career (conducted by mail), had a post office box and a bank account, but no one had ever met him in person. In 1976, they learned why—Tiptree was Alice Bradley, a former CIA agent who had adopted the pseudonym while finishing her doctorate in psychology.

Bradley said that when she started writing science fiction, she wanted to create a persona who would be sufficiently removed from her previous writing, which had focused mostly on women and the nature of girlhood, and wanted to submit her stories with a name that no editor would remember rejecting. She took the name “Tiptree” from a jam jar and the name “James” because males were more common in science fiction than females.

When Tiptree was revealed to be a woman, it caused quite a stir among the science fiction community. Sheldon would later say that she was ashamed of taking a male pseudonym because she had taken an easy path into the male-dominated field.

6The jazz musician who found fame by posing as a man

To his fans in Spokane, Billy Tipton was a jazzman extraordinaire, a gifted pianist and saxophonist who had played with such luminaries as Jack Teagarden and Russ Carlyle before forming his own popular trio in the 1950s. To friends and neighbors, he was a family man, a loving husband, and devoted father of three adopted sons. But after the aged and ailing Tipton died at home in 1989 of bleeding ulcers, he was found to be not quite the perfect gentleman. In fact, he was a woman.

The revelation left Tipton's children both bereaved and, to put it mildly, bewildered. Neither Jon Clark, 26, nor his brothers, Scott also 26, and Billy Jr., 19, had ever suspected their father was female. The news also stunned residents of the quiet northwestern city.

The one person who could shed light on the mystery—Kitty Oakes, the woman Tipton claimed to have married in the early '60s—refused to talk about their life together. Her silence left many people searching for an explanation of just how and why Tipton, who never underwent a sex-change operation, pulled off her astonishing masquerade for 50 years.

Tipton was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton in 1914 in Oklahoma City and began giving violin concerts at 7. He later studied music in Kansas City and by the time he was 16, when the Big Band era was in full swing, he longed to be a jazz musician. It was then Tipton began appearing as a man in the hopes that it would boost his chances for success.

7The woman who pretended to be a man to find her husband who went missing in battle

When her husband went missing on the battlefield in 1778, Brita Hagberg became Petter and joined the Swedish army. While searching for her man, she was decorated for bravery for her heroic actions and when she found her husband, went back to life as a woman. She was not the only woman in Swedish history to have disguised herself as a man to serve in the military, but she may be the only one to have received a pension for her service.

8The woman who posed as a man to win Judo champ

Rena "Rusty" Kanokogi disguised herself as a man to compete in judo. Kanokogi created the first Women's World Judo Championships in 1980 in New York City and mortgaged her home to cover the costs. She coached the U.S. Olympic women's judo team in Seoul in 1988.

Kanokogi was born Rena Glickman in 1935 in Brooklyn. She learned judo from someone in the neighborhood, but her attempts to compete in the city's judo clubs were met with resistance.

In 1959, she posed as a man in the New York State YMCA judo championships and won, but had to give back her gold medal after one of the organizers asked if she was a female. With no options to compete in the U.S., in 1962 Kanokogi traveled to Tokyo to practice at the Kodokan, becoming the first woman at the main dojo with men. While in Japan, she met her future husband, Ryohei Kanokogi, a black belt in judo, karate and stick-fighting. They returned to the U.S. and started coaching judo for women.

Men's judo became an Olympic sport in the 1964 Games. Women's judo joined in 1988 with Kanokogi as U.S. coach. She passed away in 2009 at 74.

9The woman who pretended she was a man to dupe female friend into sex

In 2015, an English woman, 25, who pretended to be a man to trick her female friend into sex, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

Gayle Newland befriended her victim by posing on Facebook as "Kye Fortune." Newland bound her chest and wore a wooly hat and swimsuit to disguise her appearance, telling the woman "he" was self-conscious about "his" appearance after hospital treatments.

Chester Crown Court heard how the victim, also 25, was made to wear a blindfold whenever she was with 'Kye,' who she dated for two years, including on the roughly ten occasions the pair had sex.

The victim said she discovered 'Kye's' identity when she ripped off her blindfold during one meeting at her flat and saw Newland wearing a prosthetic penis.