Saturday, February 23, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women with a book

1750 Joseph Badger 1708-1765 Mrs. Nathaniel Brown (Anna Porter Brown) San Fran Fine Arts

Often, women were taught to read so that they could learn the Bible, but few were taught to write, as it was thought there was no reason for a woman to know how to write. A colonial woman was expected to be subservient to her father until she married, at which point she became subservient to her husband. Ministers often told their congregations that women were inferior to men and more inclined to sin and err.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sexual Politics-Mohawk-Style 1754

Hendrick Theyanoguin  Chief of the Mohawk Indians, published in London in 1755 

The British American colonial government convened a conference in Albany, New York, in the summer of 1754. French troops had occupied the Ohio valley; while the Indians in New York had declared the Covenant chain alliance broken.

Hendrick, a Mohawk leader among the Iroquois Confederation, wanted to renew the alliance between the Iroquois & the colonists. But in his speech at the meeting, he called the British weak. Soon the Seven Year's War would involve the French, the British colonists, & the Native Americans in a war that would also be called The French & Indian War.

Mohawk Hendrick:
Then Hendrick, brother to the said Abraham, and a Sachem of the same castle, rose up and spake in behalf of the Six Nations as follows:
"Brethren, This is the ancient place of treaty where the fire of friendship always used to burn, and it is now three years since we have been called to any public treaty here; ‘tis true, there are commissioners here, but they have never invited us to smoke with them (by which they mean, the commissioners had never invited them to any conference), but the Indians of Canada came frequently and smoked with them, which is for the sake of their beaver, but we hate them (meaning the French Indians)

We have not as yet confirmed the peace with them: ’tis your fault, brethren, we are not strengthened by conquest, for we should have gone and taken Crown Point, but you hindered us: We had concluded to go and take it; but we were told it was too late, and that the ice would not bear us. Instead of this you burnt your own fort at Saraghtogee and run away from it; which was shame and a scandal to you. Look about your country, and see you have no fortifications about you, no not even to this city. 'Tis but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of doors.

"Brethren, You desired us to speak from the bottom of our hearts, and we shall do it. Look about you, and see all these houses full of beaver, and money is all gone to Canada; likewise your powder, lead, and guns, which the French make use of at the Ohio.


“Brethren, You were desirous we should open our minds and our hearts to you; look at the French, they are men; they are fortifying every where; but we are ashamed to say it; you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications.”


Source: Jeptha Root Simms, History of Schoharie County, and the Border Wars of New York. Albany: Munsell & Tanner, 1845.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

18C American Women with a Book

1750 Joseph Badger 1708-1765 Faith Savage Waldo Mrs Cornelius Worcester Mus Art

Thomas Jefferson, who knew that reading was important, drafted a Virginia Assembly bill in the 1770s, titled “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” that began:  Those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people of large.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Infanticide - The Execution of Boston's Rebekah Chablit 1733

Rebekah Chamblit (ca.1706-1733) lived in Boston, Massachusetts. She was tried and executed in 1733 for infanticide. Her "declaration," reportedly "read at the place of execution," September 26th, 1733, may not have been in fact written by Chamblit herself; scholars suggest the text represents a forced or fictional confession in an extremely patriarchal society.

Chamblit was 27 years old and unmarried. According to society norms, she should have remained celibate. Her declaration was a broadside prepared by ministers to be as widely distributed as possible. It was the middle of the Great Awakening, when women were gaining some religious recognition & power, as traditional Puritan ministers were losing some of their power. Reportedly the ministers posed questions to Chamblit, as she walked to the gallows & stood on a ladder waiting to be hung. She answered as long as she could, saying what they wanted to hear. Then she "grew disordered and faint, and not capable of attending further to continu'd discourse."

Infanticide was certainly not a new phenomenon. From 1728 to 1800, the Pennsylvania Gazette published approximately one hundred accounts of infanticide. The Gazette did not identify women accused of infanticide as single or unmarried, but usually it identified their deceased infants as “bastards.” In fact, 60% of accounts describe the deceased infant as a “bastard.” For centuries, unwed mothers in Europe had occasionally killed their offspring, because they were unable to face the ignominy of raising an illegitimate child. As legal & cultural responses to crime changed by the 18C, unwed and impoverished mothers might abandon the baby on some local doorstep hoping that the newborn would receive a more healthy upbringing with a different family.  Infanticide narratives written in New England colonies & states are particularly revealing. In most infanticide narratives, the murder of the child is not mentioned. The woman is charged with having led an "unclean" life which warrants her execution.

Though there is documentation that women from different socio-economic statuses committed infanticide, women convicted of infanticide were commonly young, unmarried, lower class women who had labor-intensive jobs. These women often did not have the patriarchal protection of their father because they were servants and lived outside of their family home. If a servant woman became pregnant, not only did she work a labor intensive job that did not allow for her to properly care for an infant, but she often also faced additional years of servitude as punishment for having a child outside of wedlock.

Female deviations from the norm, even after the witch hunts had subsided, sometimes were met with extreme consequences, especially when the traditional power of the dominant males was being threatened. The details contained in Chamblit's purported declaration seem calculated to fit within the Massachusetts Bastard Neonaticde Act exactly as written, thereby completely justifying her hanging.

The declaration, dying warning and advice of Rebekah Chamblit. A young woman aged near twenty-seven years, executed at Boston September 27th. 1733. According to the sentence pass'd upon her at the Superior Court holden there for the county of Suffolk, in August last, being then found guilty of felony, in concealing the birth of her spurious male infant, of which she was delivered when alone the eighth day of May last, and was afterwards found dead, as will more fully appear by the following declaration, which was carefully taken from her own mouth. Boston: Printed and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, in Queen-Street, 1733. 

 "On Saturday The Fifth day of May last, being then something more than Eight Months gone with Child, as I was about my Household Business reaching some Sand from out of a large Cask, I received considerable Hurt, which put me into great Pain, and so I continued till the Tuesday following; in all which time I am not sensible I felt any Life or Motion in the Child within me; when on the Said Tuesday the Eighth of may, I was Deliver'd when alone of a Male infant; in whom I did not perceive Life; but still uncertain of Life in it, I threw it into the Vault about two or three Minutes after it was born; uncertain I as, whether it was a living or dead child; Tho' I confess it was probable there was Life in it, and some Circumstances seem to confirm it. I therefore own the Justice of GOD and Man in my Condemnation, and take Shame to my self, as I have none but my self to Blame; and am Sorry for any rash Expressions I have at any time uttered since my Condemnation; and I am verily persuaded there is no Place in the World, where there is a More strict regard to Justice than in this Province."

See:
Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Women before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995);
Katie M. Hemphill, “Driven to the Commission of This Crime.,” Journal of the Early Republic 32, no. 3 (Fall 2012);
N. E. H Hull, Female Felons: Women and Serious Crime in Colonial Massachusetts (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987);
Laura T. Keenan, “Reconstructing Rachel: A Case of Infanticide in the Eighteenth-Century MidAtlantic and the Vagaries of Historical Research, Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography 130, no. 4 (October 2006);
Paul A. Gilje, “Infant Abandonment in Early Nineteenth-Century New York City: Three Cases,” Signs 8, no. 3 (April 1, 1983);
Peter Charles Hoffer and N. E. H Hull, Murdering Mothers:  Infanticide in England and New England, 1558-1803 (New York: New York University Press, 1981);
Sharon Ann Burnston, “Babies in the Well: An Underground Insight into Deviant Behavior in Eighteenth Century Philadelphia,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 106, no. 2 (April 1, 1982).
S. Rowe, “Infanticide, Its Judicial Resolution, and Criminal Code Revision in Early Pennsylvania,”
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 135, no. 2 (June 1, 1991);
Melissa Sigona, "Mothers Who Kill: Infanticide in the Pennsylvania Gazette,1728-1800" UC Irvine - Undergraduate History Conference  2015;
Merril D. Smith “Unnatural Mothers,"  in Over the Threshold: Intimate Violence in Early America, (New York: Routledge, 1999)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

1750 Portrait of an American Woman & Theocracy

1750 John Wollaston 1733-1767 Experience Johnson (1720-1788) Mrs. Samuel Gouverneur (1720-1798) at Winterthur

Experience Johnson of New Jersey, married New York merchant Samuel Gouverneur, son of Isaac, in 1748.  Her grandfather the Rev Joseph Johnson of the Old First Presbyterian Church in Newark had been one of the founders of Newark, New Jersey. The original settlers in Newark, from Branford & Milford Connecticut, came to Newark, because they opposed the absorption of their communities by the Colony of Connecticut. Newark was founded in 1667 with its laws based on the Scripture & with full citizenship granted to only church members.  The church was Newark's 1st public building. For the first 40 years all affairs of the town were held in the church. This organization was said to be the last attempt in colonial America to establish a theocracy.

Her husband's father Isaac was descended from a French Huguenot family & was born in Amsterdam.  He immigrated to colonial America where he was an active merchant trading in the West Indies. Samuel & Experience's children were Isaac, born 1749, died 1800. Margaret, married Lewis Ogden. Nicholas, born 1753, died 1802. Mary, wife of Rev. Uzal Ogden. Anthony, born 1757, died 1795. Catherine, wife of Charles Ogden. Gertrude, wife of Peter Kemble. Rebecca, wife of Captain Thomas Bibby. Sarah, married Major Samuel Reading. Samuel, born 1771, died 1847. And Joseph.

The term theocracy often was applied to the governments established in 17C Massachusetts Bay & New Haven colonies. These colonies were not theocracies in the traditional sense, because clergy did not establish or run their political systems. In both colonies, there was a clear separation of church & state. In Massachusetts, for instance, clergy were forbidden to hold public office, & both colonies maintained separate systems of political & religious leadership. But it was also true that these political & religious systems were mutually reinforcing, & that early leaders hoped that every institution of their societies—the family, the church, & the magistracy—would function in concert to maintain a pious society based on Calvinist theology & Christian religious practice.

Colonial leaders deliberately intended to create a society in which the fundamental law would be the revealed Word of God, & God would be regarded as the supreme legislator. Thus, John Winthrop announced before the settlement, "For the worke wee haue in hand, it is by a mutuall consent …to seeke out a place of Cohabitation & Consorteshipp under a due forme of Government both ciuill & ecclesiastical;" the "due forme" was that enacted in the Bible. John Cotton later argued that the New England colonies, having a clear field before them, were duty bound to erect a "Theocracy … as the best forme of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the Church." Consequently, the political theory assumed that the colonies were based on the Bible & that all specific laws would show biblical warrant.

The governments of these two colonies were founded on the theory that God had ordained all society as a check on depraved human impulses &, therefore, that all politics should ideally fulfill God's will. Hence, Winthrop explained in 1645, that after people entered a body politic, they gained the freedom to do only that "which is good, just & honest"—in other words, that which God demands. The purpose of the state was to enforce God's will, & to ensure that every member of society would observe God's laws.

See:
Foster, Stephen. The Long Argument: English Puritanism & the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570–1700. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
Gildrie, Richard P. The Profane, the Civil, & the Godly: The Reformation of Manners in Orthodox New England, 1679–1749. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Miller, Perry. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. New York: Macmillan, 1939.
Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States & Canada. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992.