Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Newes from the Dead"

This pamphlet written by Richard Watkins is of the same nature as "The Bloudy Mother", but is quite different. It tells the story of Anne Greene, who was sentenced to death and survived the hanging. Her story is related to "The Bloudy Mother" because she also had a child out of wedlock that died under suspicious circumstances. In much the same manner as Jane Hattersley, Anne Greene was openly condemned of infanticide. However, this pamphlet is not about that. There are only a few lines in the beginning of the pamphlet that refer to her crime, and the rest of the story is about her survival of the death sentence, which Early Modern citizens obviously viewed as a miraculous result of her innocence. She is redeemed and found to be innocent only after her miraculous recovery. In this pamphlet the author, and supposedly all involved use phrases such as "supposed murder of her infant" and "accident" (Staub 285), whereas in the pamphlet about Jane Hattersley they use terms and phrases such as wickedness, sin, and heinous murder. I find it even more interesting that the true investigation into this crime began only after Anne's recovery. At that time the review of the trial seems to indicate that she should have been proven innocent long before her execution date, but somehow the evidence was overlooked. If all of the trials of the period were conducted in such a manner one could only imagine how many women were condemned to death on insufficient evidence and murdered rather than executed. The one thing that I am sure of at this point is that Anne Greene was extremely fortunate that she either had a much stronger neck than all of the other women before her, or that all of those who went before her wore the rope thin. Regardless of the true cause of her survival, it must be mentioned that the statistics for survival in such a case are far less than the statistics for success and so the numbers tell a gruesome story about how many women would have died. Since this pamphlet also makes it obvious that the judicial system at this point in history was flawed, it also becomes obvious that Anne Greene was probably not the only innocent woman who faced the gallows. All of this information certainly makes one review "The Bloudy Mother" with a different perspective.

This pamphlet can be found in:
Nature's cruel stepdames: murderous women in the street literature of seventeenth century England by Susan C. Staub

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