Life Story: Thomas(ine) Hall (ca. 1600 – unknown)

Gender Non-conforming in Colonial Virginia

This is the story of a likely intersex person in a small community in colonial Virginia.

A print depicting two French peasants in the foreground; a bearded man to the right with a downward facing musket and a sword on his backside conversing with another with a goatee while other villagers and animals are in the background.
Les Deux Paysons

Unidentified Artist, Les Deux Paysons de Sainct Ouen et de Mont–Morancy dans leur Agreable Conferance Touchant la Guerre de Paris, 1650. The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center.

A 1643 etching of a young woman carrying a basket, facing left, wearing a white cap and collar with a frilly end set upon a dark bodice, with fabric wrapped around the top of her floor-length skirt.
Civis Coloniensis Filia

Wenceslaus Hollar, Civis Coloniensis Filia, 1643. Etching. New Hollstein, no. 501, State i/iii National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.4991.

This video was created by the New-York Historical Society Teen Leaders in collaboration with the Untold project.

NOTE: Because Thomas(ine) changed their gender identity throughout their lifetime, this life story uses they/them pronouns. Historical records list their name as either Thomas or Thomasine, depending on how they presented themselves at that time. This life story uses Thomas(ine).

Thomas(ine) Hall was born around the year 1600 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. Their parents named them Thomasine and raised them as a girl. When they turned twelve, they were sent to live with their aunt in London, where they “went clothed in women’s apparel.”

When Thomas(ine) was around twenty-four years old, their brother was drafted into the English army. Thomas(ine) decided to go with him. Thomas(ine) cut their hair, put on men’s clothing, and joined the army using the name Thomas. Thomas(ine) served in the army for a year. When their service was done, they settled in Plymouth, England. There they once again wore women’s clothing and went by the name Thomasine.

Thomas(ine) made a living crafting bone lace and doing other needlework, traditionally considered women’s work. Like other working-class people of their day, Thomas(ine) was interested in the opportunity for a new life in the English colonies of North America. They decided to take their chances in the colonies as an indentured servant. In late 1627 they put on men’s clothing and signed a contract with the name Thomas before setting out across the Atlantic Ocean.

When Thomas(ine) arrived in the colony of Virginia, they went to work for John Tyos on a small tobacco plantation in Virginia. At first, Thomas(ine) continued to dress as and perform the work of a man. But at some point, they started to dress as a woman and take on traditional women’s labor. John appears to have had no problem with this switch, as he later swore to the community at large that Thomas(ine) was a woman. But other members of the community were less comfortable with the change. Ther