Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Re: Unnatural Mothers

I've been trying relentlessly to get an image from Early English Books Online (EEBO) to download onto my blog, but I have obviously not been successful. The image is of a very interesting document that I found during my research. The document is a statute entitled "An act to prevent the destroying and murthering of bastard children" and is listed under Anno vicesimo primo Jacobi Regis Wing, printed in 1680. It basically states that woman who makes an effort to conceal the birth of a bastard child might be sentenced to death. This is extremely interesting because of the penalties that an unwed woman might face should she not try to conceal the birth of a bastard child. This type of statute would certainly make it impossible for any unwed woman to become pregnant without facing some sort of punishment. She would simply have no options. It's not surprising that many women turned to abortion or attempted to murder their babies upon birth in the hopes that no one would ever find out. The only way for a woman to remain free from harm would be if she was successful at such an attempt. Otherwise she would face unknown atrocities at the hands of community members and the judicial system of the period. Basically a woman who found herself in this position would have nothing to lose, except for her life.

I will continue to attempt to download the image in hopes that I may be able to share it.

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