There have been many notable women throughout history that have tried to disguise themselves as men so they would be able to achieve their dreams. For example, Joan of Arc, the great female warrior, used to dress herself in men’s clothing in the 15th century so she would be able to lead the French army. There are other examples of this, like Rena Kanokogi who disguised herself as a man so she could enter the YMCA judo tournament in New York back in 1959, and many, many more.
However, you probably haven’t heard about these two historical women who have disguised themselves as men in order to achieve their dreams.
The couple in the name is Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibea, two courageous women who managed to fool the Catholic Church into marrying them on June 8, 1901.
They were determined to stay together even after they were exposed, but their story is not necessarily a happy-ever-after tale.
Marcela was studying to become a teacher at a school in Spain in the 1880s. She met Elisa at the school, and they soon fell in love. However, other students noticed that the girls had more than just a friendship going on between them, so Marcela was sent by her parents to continue her studies in Madrid. She completed her studies almost 10 years later, and she was located to teach in a school in a place called Dumbria. Coincidentally, Elisa was teaching in a village just 7 miles away from it, and she would walk to Marcela’s village every night for 2 years to visit her.
However, they were tired of hiding their relationship, so they made a plan to get married. Elisa managed to disguise herself as a man by cutting her hair and wearing man’s clothing. She took the name ‘Mario’, and she asked the local priest to be baptized. The priest didn’t suspect anything, so he baptized the “man” Mario in 1901.
Just two weeks later, the same priest, called Father Cortiella, married Mario and Marcela.
It has been reported that Marcela was two months pregnant at the time of the wedding, and people believe that it was premeditated so she could have validation for the marriage.
However, Marcela and Elisa were reported to the press shortly after, and all of the newspapers in Spain, France, Belgium, and Argentina had the news about the couple.
The publicity from the pressed caused them many problems. They had to flee to Porto, Portugal to avoid prosecution, and Marcela gave birth to a baby girl there. Elisa changed her appearance yet again, and she adopted the name Pepe. They tried to hide from the Spanish prosecutors, but they were yet again arrested on August 18, 1901.
However, before they were sent back to Spain, they were set free and quickly fled to South America in Argentina.
They changed their names yet again in Argentina, and they came up with a brand new plan. Elisa married a man who was more than 20 years older than her, and she invited Marcela (disguised as Carmen, her sister) and her daughter to live with them. It is believed that the older man became suspicious about the sisters, because his new wife Maria (Elisa) refused to consummate the marriage, and he became aware that Elisa’s “sister” was actually Marcela.
Elisa found herself in court yet again in 1904, but there were no charges against her this time. The trails of the couple remain unknown after this trial, but they are considered to be one of the forerunners of feminism and gay marriage in Spain and in whole Europe. Their legacy of courage, love, and commitment will live on forever!