Daughters of Eve: Pregnant Brides and Unwed Mothers in by Else L. Hambleton

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By Else L. Hambleton

This examine examines circumstances of fornication, bastardy, and paternity situations introduced prior to the courts in Essex County, Massachusetts among 1640 and 1692. Prosecution and conviction charges, sentencing styles, and socio-economic info, in addition to attitudes, have been analyzed to figure out that girls who bore illegitimate childrens have been punished extra critically than their male companions, and considered with contempt via nearly all of ladies.

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Extra info for Daughters of Eve: Pregnant Brides and Unwed Mothers in Seventeenth Century Massachusetts (Studies in American Popular History and Culture)

Example text

The second major group of unmarried women convicted of fornication is comprised of the 38 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 26 who bore illegitimate children. It can be reasonably assumed that many of these women “I KNOW THY CONDITION, ALAS, POOR WENCH” 17 hoped to marry their partners. The Massachusetts Bay Colony law code encouraged couples who were expecting a child to marry, and in no five-year interval throughout the period of this study is the number of single women convicted of illegitimate fornication greater than the number of couples convicted of premarital fornication.

He argued that, being fatherless, he had not had the proper direction and begged to have his whipping remitted. His partner, Susannah Durin, also a servant, was given the option of paying a £4 fine. 2 One other pair of servants was presented. She was whipped; he was fined. It becomes more difficult to separate class and gender as determinants of punishment in this decade, but where class is equivalent, as in the two cases above, all circumstances being equal, women were punished more severely. Marguerite Dudley bore an illegitimate child in 1664.

The second factor was the economic status of the female defendant. If it was equivalent to or better than that of her partner, and her family could afford to provide a dowry, an illegitimate pregnancy could be converted into a premarital pregnancy. This was an important consideration to parents who had economic, social and spiritual aspirations for their daughters. Marriage was rehabilitative and a pregnant daughter with a husband could be reintegrated into the Puritan community. Only 20 percent of women who bore illegitimate children between 1640 and 1685 made a subsequent marriage free from the taint of sexual scandal.

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