Christian Davies (1667-1739) disguised herself for love and in the process launched a military career.
Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.
Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, and Grace Lynch. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins.
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Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan and this is Encyclopedia Womannica.
This month, we’re talking about warriors -- women from throughout history and around the world who stood up to fight for what they believed in. For some, that meant literally taking up arms. For others, that meant marching, writing or speaking up for the cause.
Our warrior today disguised herself for love and in the process launched a military career. Let’s talk about Christian Davies.
Christian Cavanagh was born in 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. Her father was a local brewer. Her parents were Protestants but sided with the Catholic King James II in war and Christian’s father died in battle. After that, Christian moved to live with her aunt who ran a pub.
There, Christian met a servant named Richard Welsh and the two got married. When Christian’s aunt died, Christian inherited the pub. She ran the establishment and Richard worked as a waiter. The couple had two children and Christian was pregnant with a third when, in 1691, Richard disappeared.
After some time, Christian received a letter from her missing husband saying that he had ended up in the British Army in Holland. The circumstances leading up to that point are somewhat unclear.
What is clear is that Christian decided to take matters into her own hands to find Richard and bring him back home. She asked her mother to look after the kids, cut her hair and donned men’s clothing and joined the British Army. At that point, she was 26 years old.
Christian, who was going by the name Christopher, fought in the infantry at the Battle of Landed against the French. She was wounded, captured, and sent back to the British in 1694, all without being discovered.
Upon her release, she kept fighting with the same company until she got in a duel with a sergeant over a woman. After that, Christian was discharged.
Christian apparently hadn’t had enough of military life and she still hadn’t found her husband. In 1697, Christian enlisted in a different unit, the 2nd Ryoal North British Dragoons, known as the Scots Greys. She fought with them through the Peace of Ryswick ending the Nine Years War and re-enlisted during the War of Spanish Succession in 1701. All the while, Christian concealed her gender.
. At one point, a prostitute even claimed that Christian was the father of her child. Rather than admit that wasn’t possibly the case, Christian went along with the claim and paid the prostitute child support.
Christian had found contentment in battle. She continued to fight through injury and many years of unsuccessfully locating Richard, who she told fellow soldiers was her brother.
After being injured at the Battle of Schellenberg, Christian was asked to guard French Prisoners. She was doing just that when at long last, she found her husband. Some say she recognized him while he was hitting on another woman. It had been 13 years since they were separated.
Despite that time, Christian was livid that she found her husband interested in another woman and refused to reconcile with him. Instead, Christian wanted to keep fighting. The duo agreed that neither would reveal Christian’s gender and they pretended to be brothers.
In 1706, Christian was once again wounded in battle, this time with a fractured skull. . At long last, the rouse was up. The surgeon treating Christian discovered that she was a woman and the news spread like wildfire. When the Scots Greys brigade commander got the whole story from Richard, decided to continue paying Christian and -- once she was healthy -- allowed her to continue traveling with the troops as Richard’s wife. She was discharged from the unit as a soldier.
The drama of Christian’s relationship with Richard was far from over. While it seems she was faithful, he certainly was not. Christian wasn’t cool with that arrangement. When she found one mistress following the regiment, Christian attacked her and supposedly cut off the mistress’ nose.
She was clearly quite devoted. When Richard died in battle, Christian spent hours searching for his body in order to give him a proper burial..
After Richard’s death, Christian linked up with a couple of other military men -- marrying one named Hugh Jones just three months after Richard’s demise. Her second husband also died in battle not long after.
Christian’s life story was so extraordinary that it earned her a lifetime pension. In 1712, she was presented to Queen Anne at court and the queen gave her a bounty of 50 pounds and a shilling a day for the rest of Christian’s life.
Christian returned to Dublin, found herself another military man, and opened up another pub. Used to a more nomadic lifestyle, Christian and her third husband moved often throughout the rest of their years.
Christian died in 1739 at the age of 72. She was buried with full military honors.
Want to learn more about courageous warriors? Tune in tomorrow to learn about two sisters who used their literary prowess to fight against slavery.
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Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator. Talk to you tomorrow!