The 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall case offers an invaluable account of seventeenth-century gender fluidity, ambiguous body presentation, and non-normative sexual behavior; since 1978 it has inspired quite a range of different readings. The point of consistency across 35 years of scholarship on the case is the fact that Hall and the other parties present before the General Court in Jamestown on March 25th, 1629, have been interpreted in ways that trace shifting models for theorizing gender and sexual identity during the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-centuries. Much of the work on Hall and her/his community is excellent; however, taken as a whole this body of scholarship implies the historical possibility of an originary feminist or queer (or both) early American community, effectively eliding important distinctions among different groups as well as downplaying their significance in our own period. The author argues that while we can and should apply the tools of gender theory and sexuality studies to early American subjects, the diversity in interpretations of the Hall case suggests that we need to be even more rigorous in avoiding descriptions that risk implying that our own notions of identity can be superimposed onto the past.


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pp. 500-523
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