Mother had never forgiven me; she had five girls and me, her middle child a boy. Now don’t get me wrong, Mother loved us all equally but she hated boys. Of course at this time most young boys could expect to be dressed like his sisters until the age of 9 or 10, so Mother almost forgot I was a boy, I looked just like my sisters and suffered the ribbons and bows without thought. Mother had produced six very beautiful children and she was determined that we should be enhanced to perfection, for young ladies that meant narrow waists, lots of hair and long necks and mother was determined to give her offspring the best she could.
My oldest sister, Fran, started her training on her tenth birthday, we all, I was always included of course, watched as she was fitted with a neck corset and her first proper corset. A year later Janet joined the corseted ranks and in turn Amanda. By rights I could expect to be liberated from my petticoats come my own next birthday, but Mother had other ideas. So it was that on his tenth birthday John William Wilberforce was ceremoniously fitted with his corsets.
I have to admit that I was completely unprepared for the grip of the fearsome garments although mother only really snugged it on that first day. After the first week the corseting really started, ten year olds typically have about 24” at the waist, my family were no exception, Fran now 14 years old had an 18” waist, Amanda just a year older than myself was already reduced to 22". I could expect no less.
Mother had obviously decided that she didn’t really have a son, at the age of 12 each girl had her ears pierced, I did too. But as the years passed one thing was clear – I didn’t have a chest, well why should I? I know Mother was concerned by that, the solution seemed to be a daily dose of some revolting mixture – whatever it was by my thirteenth birthday I had budding breasts just like my sisters, I was quite proud of them actually.
We had a party for Fran when she reached 18; she was laced into her best corset all the way to 14” and finally was free of the neck corset. Mother had new dresses for all of us; we looked like a set of those Russian dolls! Only the bigger sizes had smaller waists and longer necks. Of course mother was always looking for potential husbands for her flock and having been brought up as a girl for all of my fourteen years I was included in any speculation, the only problem as far as Mother was concerned was my extra tackle.
Of course mother came up with a solution, there was after all no surgery at this time so I was inline for some rather more immediate treatment. Now Mother was not cruel, she had me heavily sedated and did the deed herself having borrowed the equipment. In one foul swoop I was castrated and mother set about sewing me up which she did most excellently, I was as near to a sex change as the 19th Century could get. Shortly after this Mother brought her offspring together and announced that I was to be called Abigail henceforth. John William was no longer.
As each of us reached 18 we had a party, Janet laced to 14½”, in turn Amanda reached 14”, when my turn came I made just 13”, mother was overjoyed. Within three years all six of her perfect daughters were married, of course that included me.
Well of course we all continued to tight lace, I don’t think anyone got any smaller than I did on my eighteenth. Obviously I couldn’t have children but for some reason, not one of my sisters became pregnant either, none of our husbands seemed concerned, together they enjoyed parading the Wilberforce girls. We always had frocks that accentuated our shape.
Through their connections all six husbands went into business together, to honour us it was called Wilberforce Trading Company. They started by employing agents in the Orient but after a year they decided that they needed to be a bit more hands on. They drew straws to see who would go, my husband Michael Spencer drew the straw, and we were off to Cathay and points east.
The only problem as far as Michael was concerned was me, he was certain that the sailors would find me a great distraction, he was likely correct, so he decided they would not see me at all. For weeks he planned things, soon it was time to pack for the trip and he still did not divulge his plan. You will have to forgive me if some of this next part is a bit vague; I got it mostly second-hand from my maid.
I do know that Michael insisted I bathe thoroughly and removed my pubic hair, a strange request but I agreed. Later that day the doctor came and gave each of us injections, which he claimed, would help protect us from the strange eastern diseases. Afterward every thing went wishy-washy; I had been drugged, so here I get quite vague. My maid plaited my hair tightly to my scalp and fitted a close fitting kid leather cap that was laced on; it made me look bald!
My usual corset was removed and replaced with a heavy canvas affair that was laced to my usual 13”. My husband took over then, I was fitted with a strange set of tubes of the new rubber material, then a solid leather chastity pant was fitted on me and laced tightly closed. Apparently my maid had been test pilot for this device and had suffered it for three weeks beforehand.
Next I was fitted with heavy silk stockings which were laced in place with silk thread to the pant. Over these were placed stiff leather boots that reached mid thigh. They were heel less and held the foot like a ballerina en point. These were laced tightly in place so that my legs could not bend at all and movement was only from the hip, not that it would concern me for some time!
Attention moved to my torso which now had a stiff leather bodice strapped and laced over the corset. My arms then had heavy silk gloves placed on them before being laced into yet more stiff leather. The outer glove had no fingers, ending instead in a mitten. By now another of the drugs had come into effect, robbing me of my voice, just as well, I would have screamed mightily if I had known what was happening to me. Michael then fitted me with what he calls a breath mask with a built in feed tube; I apparently looked like some kind of monster by now.
There was more to come, my arms were laced to my sides and my legs to each other before Michael produced the full body corset. This fully encased me from tip of head to my toes locking me rigid; this in turn was locked shut with twenty specially made locks. There were only three keys, Michael had one, Sarah the maid had one that lived on a chain that Michael had fitted between her nipples, which he pierced to facilitate this. The last key was kept in the companies safe in London. This leather manikin was then carefully packed in a crate with hidden access to feed me and tend to my other needs.
Four months later, after a long fitful dream I roused. The removal of my packing was a bit quicker, the lacing was cut carefully by Sarah, as soon as my face was clear I was given a reviving brew, my voice was still inoperative but I was at least mostly aware now. The rest of the leather was removed, Michael removed the plumbing and soon I was laid on the bed naked. Sarah tried to hide her dismay, but Michael could not, apparently I looked little more than a skeleton.
Over the next days I was carefully looked after, my voice returned but I couldn’t stand up, as I couldn’t bend my ankles. This was solved with some specially made boots, so now with some difficulty I could see my image in the mirror. I was shocked. Thin doesn’t come into it, when I put my corset on it was loose, imagine a 13” corset loose. Sarah measured me, just 12”! What had Michael done to me?
Well now I looked quite bizarre, new corsets were made and a second pair of the boots. I got used to walking on my toes and my body regained much of the lost flesh, I think my bust actually gained a small amount over my original size. Michael was quite repentant and vowed not to repeat the exercise on our return, he was sure I wouldn’t survive a second trip in that manner. (I didn’t think so either)
Copyright Maddy Bell 2003
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