Policing “Men in Petticoats” in the Victorian Press: Fanny and Stella in the Illustrated Police News

  • Robert Steele University of Victoria


In April of 1870, Ernest Boulton (Stella) and Frederick Park (Fanny) were arrested for cross dressing while leaving the Strand Theatre in London, transgressing Victorian gender norms and scandalized the contemporary press. The Illustrated Police News (IPN), a late-nineteenth- century periodical known for its explicit (and often exaggerated) coverage of crime, leapt on Boulton and Park’s case but struggled with how to report their non-normative identities. Using the IPN as a case study for the press coverage of the Boulton and Park case and combining a close reading of the language in the periodical with the social context of the trials, I argue that the IPN’s press coverage of the Boulton and Park case shows how class boundaries and, increasingly, gender boundaries were more important to the late-Victorian middle-class identity than sexuality.

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