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By Else L. Hambleton

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

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

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Subsequently, Mehitabel Downing was convicted of drunkenness after she was found passed out in the road. It is probable that other illegitimate children experienced similar emotional problems. Both Mehitabel Downing and her stepmother were jailed for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. Chapter Three “Priscilla Was Fined, the Child Died”: A Quantitative Analysis of Illegitimate Fornication Prosecutions in the Essex County Quarterly Court, 1666–1685 Mr. , and Priscilla Willson were presented for fornication, And said Samuell denying it was dismissed, paying half the costs.

Deaths were not consistently recorded in seventeenth-century court records. Hannah Hayward of Ipswich, convicted of fornication at the age of sixteen in 1677, died unmarried in 1725. ” At sixty-five, it is more likely that “Antient maid” was a reference to her single status, indicating how remarkable it seemed to her contemporaries for a woman to reach that age unmarried. The deaths of two “I KNOW THY CONDITION, ALAS, POOR WENCH” 19 defendants, Marra Hathorne and Sarah Avery were recorded in 1676, perhaps as a result of Metacomet’s War.

3 Essex County women were prosecuted 104 times for fornication following the birth of illegitimate children between 1640 and 1685. Thirteen of these women were convicted twice and one woman was convicted three times. Six of the women were widows, two of whom were convicted twice. With the exception of the five-year interval, 1661–1665, the number of women prosecuted Table 1 Comparison of Numbers of Women Convicted of Illegitimate and Premarital Fornication in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1641–1685 Year Illegitimate Fornication (N=104) Premarital Fornication (N=151) 1641–1645 1646–1650 1651–1655 1656–1660 1661–1665 1666–1670 1671–1675 1676–1680 1681–1685 2 2 6 10 3 10 18 24 29 1 2 5 9 11 16 36 33 38 for bearing bastards increases with each interval.

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