Autobiographical Selves: The Lebensbeschreibung of Regula Engel (1761–1853), the "Swiss Amazon"

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This article examines the autobiography of Regula Engel (1761–1853), commonly known as the "Swiss Amazon." Engel accompanied her husband, a member of a Swiss regiment serving the French, to battlefields in various countries. She cross-dressed as a male soldier and bore twenty-one children. Her husband's death in 1815 left Engel without any financial means. In 1821, she published her life narrative, Lebensbeschreibung (Life Description), to generate income and secure potential benefactors. As a lower-class, cross-dressing, Zürich woman working in the retinue of a mercenary army, Engel not only challenges the autobiographical genre's underlying presupposition of a male bourgeois subject but also questions early-nineteenth-century notions of femininity and thereby reinserts women into the writing of history.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-148
JournalWomen in German Yearbook
StatePublished - 2009


  • transvestism
  • women
  • autobiographies
  • soldiers
  • children
  • men
  • written narratives
  • military history
  • femininity


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