Miracle 2008 Rape

Title Information

Author: Amanda Lea Miracle

Title: Rape and Infanticide in Maryland, 1634-1689

Subtitle: Gender and Class in the Courtroom Contestation of Patriarchy on the Edge of the English Atlantic

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Bowling Green State University

Year: August 2008

Pages: viii + 301pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 17th Century | U.S. History | Cases: Offenders / Robert Harwood, Humphrey Jones, William Key, Joseph Lumbrozo, John Nevill, Richard Owens, Joseph Spernon, Long Thorn; Cases: Victims / Susan Attcheson, Ann Billingsley, Ann Gould, Elizabeth Gary, Mary Kirke, Mary Smith, Elizabeth Wilde

Full Text

Link: OhioLINK [Free Access]

Additional Information

Author: Amanda Lea Miracle, Department of Social Sciences, Emporia State University


»Seventeenth-century elite male Marylanders feared women and non-elites usurping elite power. Elite behavior suggesting this fear is visible in nineteen legal proceedings stemming from incidents identified as involving either alleged coerced sex or the supposed killing of a newborn by its single mother in Maryland from 1634-1689. Rape and infanticide cases were chosen for examination because they represent the universe of violent felony gendered crimes of which sex was an integral part. This study employs a microhistorical approach to each incident based on court documents, wills, church records, and transportation records.
Seventeenth-century Marylanders espoused various understandings of both crimes. Rape victim testimony emphasized non-consent, force, and penile penetration. When combined with judicial action, this is essentially the definition of rape employed herein. Coerced sex in this dissertation indicates forced sex that failed to result in a rape trial. Justices and juries understood the trials as an opportunity to strengthen the gendered power structure. Generally, the Provincial court dismissed these cases, downgraded the charge, or pardoned the accused. Infanticide in this study is defined as a single woman giving birth in secret to a child later found dead. Infanticide verdicts depended on the presence and class of the patriarch of the woman. Women without patriarchal figures appearing for them were condemned.
The findings of this dissertation regarding colonial Maryland have broad implications for considering the following themes in early America. In early Maryland fear of social upheaval motivated a host of legal decisions that while based on English common law took different forms to meet new world concerns. To secure elite male hegemony, Maryland elites were willing to accommodate subordinates with varying degrees of authority and control. Throughout early America colonists questioned the limits and characteristics of patriarchal privileges, the responsibilities elites held, and the responses to subordinates desirous of increased agency. Therefore, the findings of this dissertation suggests that through a process of resistance and accommodation elite men and subordinates worked out the nuances of gender and class privileges. These privileges operated separately, but jointly defined how much power an individual commanded.« [Source: Thesis]


  Abstract (p. ii)
  Acknowledgments (p. v)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Section 1. Introduction: English Rape Laws (p. 36)
  Chapter I. Coerced Sex as Courtship (p. 41)
    The Story (p. 41)
    Introduction (p. 41)
    The People Involved (p. 44)
    The Trial (p. 46)
    The Context: Courtship (p. 48)
    The Context: Sex and Marriage Eligibility (p. 51)
    Deciding Articles of Agreement (p. 54)
    Afterwards (p. 59)
    Conclusions (p. 72)
  Chapter II. Coerced Sex as Fornication (p. 76)
    The Story (p. 76)
    Introduction (p. 76)
    The Trial (p. 78)
    The Community (p. 83)
    A Victim or a Conspirator? (p. 86)
    Challenges to Authority (p. 90)
    Effects of the Trial (p. 94)
    Conclusions (p. 101)
  Chapter III. Coerced Sex as Breach-of-Contract (p. 104)
    The Story (p. 104)
    Introduction (p. 104)
    The Trial (p. 108)
    Property and Labor (p. 114)
    Redefining Coerced Sex as a Business Transaction Involving Property (p. 116)
    Coerced Sex as Unterstood By the Victim (p. 118)
    Sex and Syphilis (p. 121)
    Conclusions (p. 124)
  Chapter IV. Coerced Sex as Marrital Sex (p. 129)
    The Story (p. 129)
    Introduction (p. 129)
    The Case (p. 134)
    Authority within the Household (p. 138)
    A Repeat Offender?: The Second Time (p. 141)
    Religion, Race, and the Creation of Difference (p. 145)
    Sex, Economics, and Another Sexual Attempt (p. 149)
    After the Trials (p. 155)
    Conclusions (p. 156)
  Chapter V. Coerced Sex as Felony Rape (p. 160)
    The Five Stories (p. 160)
    Introduction (p. 160)
    Blaming the Victim of Falsifying an Accusation: Responses to a Willful Elite Woman (p. 166)
    An Escape Clause for a Guilty Rapist, or a Measure of Accommodation for a Victim? (p. 172)
    Man Charged with Rape as a Political Expedient (p. 176)
    Two Inquiries of Rape: Releasing a Guilty Man and Punishing a Innocent One (p. 179)
    Conclusions (p. 186)
  Section 2: Introduction of Infanticide Laws (p. 189)
  Chapter VI. Single Woman Accused of Infanticide while Enroute (p. 191)
    The Story (p. 191)
    Introduction (p. 191)
    Mechanisms of Justice; Purposes; and Social Concerns (p. 193)
    Conclusions (p. 211)
  Chapter VII. Married Women Charged with Infanticide (p. 213)
    The Two Stories (p. 213)
    Introduction (p. 213)
    The Elizabeth Harris Case (p. 215)
    Identity and Prosecution (p. 216)
    Identifying Infanticide (p. 219)
    Alternatives and Resulting Consequences: the Marler/Price Case (p. 230)
    Conclusions (p. 236)
  Chapter VIII. Released Single Women Accused of Infanticide (p. 240)
    The Four Stories (p. 240)
    Introduction (p. 240)
    The Trial of Jane Crisp: The Court Process as a Demonstration of Judicial Power (p. 242)
    The Trial of Hannah Jenkins, and the Role of Her Step-Father (p. 250)
    A Master as a Juror and an Infanticide Defendant: the Case of Mary Stevens (p. 256)
    The Trial of Anne Pattison and the Implicit Association to Her Father (p. 259)
    Conclusions (p. 263)
  Chapter IX. Condemned Single Women Accused of Infanticide (p. 265)
    The Three Stories (p. 265)
    Introduction (p. 265)
    A Community Proves a Charge of Infanticide Levied by the Governor (p. 266)
    Damming Evidence and Lack of Support (p. 270)
    "Pleading her Belly" and the Role of Women (p. 273)
    Isabella Yausley: Condemned on the Basis Only of Male Testimony and Wholly Without Female Support (p. 277)
    Conclusions (p. 280)
  Conclusions (p. 282)
  Bibliography (p. 291)
    Primary Sources (p. 291)
    Secondary Sources (p. 293)

Added: March 8, 2014 | Last updated: March 8, 2014