Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In the Navy

I found this 1918 reproduction of a print on eBay. Its description does not indicate its original source. I am guessing it is from a newspaper or magazine.

The upper caption reads, "This is no other than A. W. Peters, American jackie* impersonator, as he appears when working for Uncle Sam."

The lower caption reads, "But here he is gowned and powdered to amuse the boys when duty is less pressing than pleasure."

I was never in the military, so I am clueless about military life.

Were female impersonators common in the military?

Did the military encourage female impersonation to "to amuse the boys when duty is less pressing than pleasure?"

This is just one example of crossdressing in uniform. I have hundreds of others and I always wondered what the heck was going on!

* I looked up "jackie" and found only one definition (in the Urban Dictionary) that made sense. It refers to a "beautiful girl."


  1. I don't know if it is anymore because there's so much more "drama" around it, what with "don't ask don't tell" controversy and just a general heightened awareness of homophobia. But from what I've always understood, it used to be a very common thing years ago. I don't know how much the military actually "encouraged" it, but it was definitely something that was done when boredom arose (also remember, that women weren't in the military at the time! Probably a lot of men desperate to see even the illusion of a woman!)

    Much like womanless beauty pageants today, surely most of them were doing it to be silly and strictly for humor, going over the top and not trying to achieve any kind of impressive level of femulation, but I'm sure some of them who were a "little too good at it" had a slightly bigger interest in it than they would be willing to let on to their fellow soldiers! Would make for great fiction actually...

  2. AnonymousJuly 12, 2011

    All you have to do is seek out the dvd of the film THIS IS THE ARMYberlin with Ronald Reagan qnd Geirving orge Murphy and with music by Irving Berlin and see numerous soldiers doing musical numbers in drag.

  3. Female impersonation was common throughout both world wars. Concert parties were made up of male soldiers and so of course some of them had to play the female roles. Prisoner of war camps, including the infamous Colditz Castle, were all male environments and the prisoners had to generate their own femininity.

  4. lumbergillJuly 12, 2011

    Have a look at the British comedy series "It Ain't Half Hot , Mum". It was very popular back in the seventies and featured plenty of drag.

  5. There are several historically documented accounts from the American Civil War and the War of American Independence of FTM transgenderism.

    All of the accounts of MTF transgenderism in the First and Second World Wars I have encountered are all connected with non-combat entertainment venues, such as musical reviews and skits to promote morale, as mentioned by previous commenters.

    From my limited personal experience in the US military (1974-1987), female impersonation or transgenderism was completely unknown in officially sanctioned activities. Off-duty was different, as one might imagine (smile).