A cross-dressing male mummer in the annual Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia. Wenches are characterized by braided white wigs (the length of the braid varies according to the age of the wench), "golden slippers" -- sneakers spray-painted gold, triple parasols, and small, satin bags used as pocketbooks and stashes for keys and beer. Outrageously unpretty, often with a beer gut and noticable stubble, most wenches are Irish and Swedish family men, with no transvestism implied. Wenches organize themselves into brigades, similar to the crewes of New Orleans; recently, a few women (usually wives, mothers and widows of wench brigade members) have been sighted donning the wig and parasol as well.

The tradition of wenches is drawn from the parade's past as a showcase of minstrelsy. When blackface characters fell out of favor, mummers went from caracaturing black men to doing the same to white women. Kind of makes you wonder what they'll be doing next....

Wench (?), n. [OE. wenche, for older wenchel a child, originally, weak, tottering; cf. AS. wencle a maid, a daughter, wencel a pupil, orphan, wincel, winclu, children, offspring, wencel weak, wancol unstable, OHG. wanchol; perhaps akin to E. wink. See Wink.]


A young woman; a girl; a maiden.


Lord and lady, groom and wench. Chaucer.

That they may send again My most sweet wench, and gifts to boot. Chapman.

He was received by the daughter of the house, a pretty, buxom, blue-eyed little wench. W. Black.


A low, vicious young woman; a drab; a strumpet.

She shall be called his wench or his leman. Chaucer.

It is not a digression to talk of bawds in a discourse upon wenches. Spectator.


A colored woman; a negress.

[U. S.]


© Webster 1913.

Wench (?), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Wenched (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Wenching.]

To frequent the company of wenches, or women of ill fame.


© Webster 1913.

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