The Rebecca Riots: When Welsh Farmers Dressed In Drag To Protest

The Rebecca Riots: When Welsh Farmers Dressed In Drag To Protest

In the 17th century, poor Welsh farmers were getting financially gang banged from every direction. They had landlords jacking up their rent, the government jacking up their taxes, and the church just jacking their money in the form of tithes. When toll booths on the roads into town (and hence the markets where they sold their stuff) started popping up, they weren't happy, but they initially just went around them, presumably muttering whatever fantastic curses 17th-century Welsh farmers had at their disposal as they dragged their carts off the road. When the government started putting up gates to prevent the workaround, however, they decided enough was enough, and their intolerance took the delightful form of pretty dresses.

The problem was getting close enough to the guards at the gates and booths to tear that shit down. They noticed, however, that the guards allowed women (who, as we all know, be shopping) to pass without so much as a second glance. They could have just taken up cross-dressing indefinitely and created Wales's most fabulous farmer's market, but no skirt would be big enough to hide their carts, and besides, they were too mad at this point not to do a violence.

Instead, they just started dressing as women, catching the guards with their, uh, guards down before destroying the booths and gates in a fury of gender-bending rage. The various mobs started calling their leaders Rebecca and themselves "Rebecca's daughters" after a particularly on-the-nose Bible passage about gates, and they even performed a little play before they got lit:

Honestly, more violent riots should incorporate unnecessary theater. It was certainly effective: Between 1839 and 1843, the drama queens destroyed every toll booth and gate in that mother, and everyone was so afraid of them that even their landlords agreed to negotiate lower rents. There are, to be sure, few things scarier than a man willing and able to do some serious property damage while in heels.

Top image: Illustrated London News/Wikimedia Commons

Scroll down for the next article


Forgot Password?