Lasse-Maja

Posted on November 20, 2010

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Born Lars Larsson in 1785 near Arboga, some 100 kilometers west of Stockholm, when he was 15 he fell in love with a girl named Maja on a neighboring farm and trying on her clothes one day, found that he liked it. So began the long career of Swedish thief and transvestite/transsexual Lars Larsson, who called himself Lars Molin and became known as Lasse-Maja.

Molin, who apparently was a bit of a wild boy, found that not only did he like wearing women’s clothes but he was able to find good jobs working as a housekeeper and cook as a woman, often with the help of another young woman accomplice. The main problem seems to have been his sticky fingers: his employment tended to end with him absconding with his master’s possessions. His stealing and cross-dressing gained him notoriety and he became known in the area as the notorious thief Lasse-Maja.

According to Molin, he had many suitors as a woman and had little trouble disguising himself and even when he was caught, was able to captivate both men and women with his charm. He ultimately met his downfall when he stole silver from a church in Järfalla outside Stockholm and was caught for good. He was sentenced to forty lashes and life imprisonment. He was 28.

But Lasse-Maja’s story captivated the public, and while he was in prison his memoirs were published describing his various adventures. His good behavior and his popularity helped him – he was visited in prison by many people curious to meet the famous thief – and he was eventually pardoned by one of his fans, the Crown Prince and future King Karl XIV.

Molin ended his life touring the country and speaking and reading from his memoirs, dressed as a woman. He died in 1845.

Interestingly, there were no laws against men dressing as women and Molin seems to have gotten little censure for his cross-dressing; it was his thieving that got him into trouble and people seemed to be fascinated and intrigued by his dressing as a woman.

Lasse-Maja has a Wikipedia page, here. There is also a highly romanticized film about him from 1941, Lasse-Maja

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