Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton didn’t quite look like average ladies in Victorian era England, there was something a bit different about their appearance and their attitudes, and even though it’s hard to immediately tell from an old photo Fanny and Stella are actually men dressed in drag, Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park, arguably the first example of those we now refer to as drag queens.
In an era characterized by sexual oppression, puritanical beliefs and delicate social standards Fanny and Stella shocked the norms with their flirtatious manner when dressed in drag, and men responded quite favorably to their advances, but their flamboyant behavior ultimately got the pair arrested and sparked one of the most sensationalized episodes of the era.
They attended a performance at the Strand Theater dressed as men, then changed into their frilly frocks while at the theater, unaware that they were being watched by a police man. He arrested the duo just as they were about to leave in a carriage, on the charge of "conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence", most likely because they were keeping some rather auspicious men company.
The subsequent trial became quite the scandalous media spectacle, and even though the two were eventually found not guilty and released their public shaming and mistreatment would foreshadow the long, dark road ahead of openly homosexual men and women who simply want to be free to live their lives however they see fit. And now we have a show called RuPaul's Drag Race on cable TV...we've come a long way!