Harry Stokes – Manchester’s ‘female husband’

Harry Stokes  c1799 – October 1859
Master bricklayer, pub landlord, special constable and ‘female husband’.


In 1838 Manchester bricklayer & special constable Harry Stokes was outed by his wife of 22 years as being a ‘man-woman’, a ‘female husband’. She was after a separation because of his recent drunken rages and withholding of the housekeeping.
Harry became the talk of the town; a figure of ridicule; people sung ballads about him in the street. He moved to Salford for a couple of years with his new ‘wife’ Francis Collins. Then they returned to Quay Street and ran a series of pubs. In 1859 Harry’s body was found in the River Irwell, not far from where Media City is today. 

Check out:

Timeline of Harry’s life, including info from trade directories, rate books etc

Harry Stokes – how were female husbands viewed in the press, and how might historians see them today?

Newspaper stories on Harry Stokes – 1838 and 1859

Thomas Green and John Jones – Manchester’s other female husbands.

Harry’s life in pictures by Helen

Harry Stokes builder

Harry ran a successful bricklaying firm specialising in chimney construction.


My husband is a woman

After 22 years of marriage Harry’s first wife wanted a separation – she’d had enough of him getting drunk & ill-treating her, and withholding the housekeeping. She explained to her shocked lawyer that her husband was not a man but a woman.


Police surgeon issued a cartificate

Harry was examined by a police surgeon who issued a certificate confirming Harry was a woman.


ballads were composed

Harry became the talk of Manchester, with ballads sold & sung about him in the street.

He had four beers and a pipe

14 October 1859 Harry visited a beerhouse in Salford & had four beers and a pipe of tobacco. The landlady Mary Gorton said Harry appeared ‘upset in his mind’.



His top hat was spotted floating in the Irwell1

15 October 1859, Harry’s body is found bolt upright in the River Irwell, not far from where Media City is today. Inquest verdict: found drowned, supposed suicide.