Interesting article on Sociological Images about the “Sworn Virgins of Albania.”
Rigid gender roles often inspire creative solutions. Families in Afghanistan, for example, when they have all girls, often pick a daughter to pretend to be a boy until puberty. The child can then run errands, get a job, and chaperone “his” sisters in public (all things girls aren’t allowed to do). The transition is sudden and doesn’t involve relocation, so the entire community knows that the child is a girl. They just pretend nothing at all strange is going on. In fact, it’s not strange. It happens quite routinely.
A similar phenomenon emerged in Albania in the 1400s. Inter-group warfare had left a dearth of men in many communities. Since rights and responsibilities were strongly sex-typed, some families needed a “man” to accomplish certain things like buy land and pass down wealth.
In response, some girls became “virgjinesha,” or sworn virgins. A sworn virgin was a socially-recognized man for the rest of “his” life (so long as the oath was kept). Many girls would take the oath after their father died.