When she was 24 in 1776 Jemima had a severe fever that almost caused her death. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world.
She changed her name to “the Publick Universal Friend” or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or even use gendered pronouns. Stating they was neither male nor female. The new religious leader fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. Wilkinson had declared independence from gender.
As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous asexual Friend was many things to many people.
This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago on July 1, 1819.
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