Image of two men kissingGay History and Literature: Essays by Rictor Norton

Catharina alias Anastasius

On 13 October 1721 Catharina Margaretha Linck and Catharina Margaretha Mühlhahn were prosecuted for lesbian relations, in Halberstadt in Saxony. A transcript of the trial from the Prussian Secret State Archives was published in 1891 by Dr F. C. Müller and translated into English by Brigitte Eriksson in 1980. What we mainly learn from the trial is that there’s nowt so queer as folk.

Catharina Linck (or Lincken) was a religious fanatic, a bit of a wife-beater, a member of the vagabond/religious underworld, and one of life’s losers. Linck was about twenty-seven years old in 1721. For many years she had disguised herself in men’s clothes ‘In order to lead a life of chastity’. She became a member of a group of Inspirants, a kind of wandering Quakers, had ecstasies and delusions, and professed to be a prophet for two years. She joined the army as Anastasius Lagrantinus Beuerlein, but deserted in 1708. She was captured and sentenced to hang, but was freed upon the discovery of her true sex.

She had made a penis of stuffed leather with two stuffed testicles made from pig’s bladder attached to it and had tied it to her pubes with a leather strap. . . . She said that while she was a soldier she had hired many a woman whom she excited with the leather object. At times she ran for miles after a beautiful woman and spent all her earnings on her. Often when a woman touched her, even slightly, she became so full of passion that she did not know what to do.

For the next few years Linck alternated between male and female clothing, and also had herself baptized alternately in the Catholic and Lutheran faiths. In 1717, pretending to be a man, she married, in church, Catharina Margaretha Mühlhahn (who was twenty-two in 1721). She used a leather-covered horn to urinate standing up like a man, but her wife noticed that ‘Other men can piss quite a ways, but you always piss on your shoes.’ Her wife found out her disguise, and Linck promised that henceforth they would live together as brother and sister, but soon they continued having sexual relations. The two women lived as vagabond beggars for a time. Linck was able to make her ‘leather sausage’ ‘stiff or limp’. The bride complained to her mother of soreness, especially after Linck forced her to take it in her mouth. The mother-in-law beat Linck and tore open her clothes to discover the false penis. Mühlhahn was too fearful of her ‘husband’ to bring any charges against her; Mühlhahn’s mother probably brought the irregularity to the attention of the authorities, not knowing that her daughter would also be prosecuted, but we do not know the exact circumstances of why this came to trial. Both women were convicted of sodomy, exacerbated by the circumstances of ‘the abuse of holy baptism and the frequent apostatizing’, which were also crimes, though not capital crimes. Linck was sentenced to be beheaded and then burned (rather than burned alive); Mühlhahn was sentenced to three years ‘in the penitentiary or spinning room’ and afterwards to be banished from the country.

Linck’s own testimony does not suggest that she identified herself as a man, although she obviously took a male sexual role and even used her olisbo in a symbolic act not unknown in modern butch–femme relations. There seems no reason why we should not agree with the lawyers at the trial, who defined her as a fricatrice, a ‘rubbing woman’ — in other words, a lesbian.

(Copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. This article may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the author.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, "Catharina alias Anastasius", Lesbian History, 1 August 2003, updated 13 June 2008 <>

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