Gender issues in the ranks of the Dutch East India Company

Last week, Jelle tweeted about the women who dressed up as men to land a job with the VOC and were fired when subsequently their ‘real’ gender became known.

Several people have asked for more information, in particular about the origins of the women involved. Below is a spreadsheet that lists their (for obvious reasons fake) names, and their place of origin – all other information available about the individuals are also listed. As you can see in the ‘remarks’ column, there are some really interesting cases: a woman going by the name of ‘Hendrik Huijsloop’ married a fellow sailor on board the Petronella Alida, and the ‘Joannes Burghart’ case is even more spectacular, or in any case more successful. She was only discovered to be a woman after having served as a soldier for no less than three years! There might even have been women in the ranks of the VOC who went until safely returning in the Netherlands, but alas the data do not allow us to trace them down… For more information about transvestism in early modern Europe, please have a look at the book by Rudolf Dekker and Lotte van de Pol (it’s by no means our area of expertise!).

Tip: clicking the links in the last column leads you to a scan of the entry in the original VOC payment ledgers. The right-hand side (in some cases you have to go one page up to view this side) shows the reason why the employment ended.