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Sept. 12, 2022

Abortion in 18th Century New England


In 1742, in Pomfret, Connecticut, 19-year-old Sarah Grosvenor discovered she was pregnant, the result of a liaison with 27-year-old Amasa Sessions. Instead of marrying Sarah, Amasa provided her with a physician-prescribed abortifacient, what the youth of Pomfret called “taking the trade." When that didn’t work to end the pregnancy, the physician attempted a manual abortion, which led to Sarah’s death. Three years later, the physician was tried for “highhanded Misdemeanour." The surviving trial documentation gives us an unusually detailed look into the reproductive lives of Connecticut youths in the mid-18th Century. 

Joining me in this episode to help us learn more about the Sarah Grosvenor case and its historical context is Dr. Cornelia H. Dayton, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and author of the 1991 article, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” in The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1, 1991, pp. 19–49, and co-creator of the Taking the Trade website.

Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is original artwork created by Matthew Weflen.

 

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Transcript

Kelly Therese Pollock  0:00  
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too. 

Today, we begin a short series of episodes on reproduction, contraception, and abortion in American history. This episode focuses on the case of the abortion and death of Sarah Grosvenor, in Pomfret, Connecticut, in 1742. The legal case brought against the physician who performed the abortion was unusual for many reasons that I will discuss with today's guest. As a word of warning, this introduction does depict an abortion. If you'd like to avoid it, I would recommend skipping forward about five minutes. 

Sarah Grosvenor was born on June 1, 1723, to Captain Leicester Grosvenor, a son of one of the six original landowners in the area. When Pomfret became a town in 1714, Captain Leicester Grosvenor was elected selectman, and he was reelected to 19 one-year terms. In 1742, Sarah, age 19, was living with her father, her stepmother, Rebecca, and her older sister Zerviah, who was 21 at the time. At some point, Sarah began a relationship with Amas Sessions, the 27 year old son of Lieutenant Nathaniel Sessions, another prominent resident of Pomfret. Around May of 1742, Sarah realized that she was pregnant and alerted Amasa. For unknown reasons, Amasa was reluctant to marry Sarah. On paper, they appear to have been a good match both children of leading families in the region. As I'll discuss with the guests later, it would not have been unusual for a couple at the time to become pregnant first and then marry. But for whatever reason, Amasa pressured Sarah to take a powdered abortifacient. In Pomfret lingo, this was called "taking the trade." There were various recipes for abortifacients. We don't know what was in the powder that Sarah took. It may have been made of herbs like Savin or Pennyroyal. According to later testimony, Sarah was loath to take the trade and, "thought it evil." It appears she may not have taken all of the doses that Amasa brought to her. Whether for that reason or because it was an ineffective remedy to begin with. The concoction prescribed by the physician John Hallowell did not work to end the pregnancy. Although John Hallowell called himself a physician, it's unlikely that he had any college or apprenticeship training. That wouldn't have been unusual for the time. And even college-trained doctors didn't have today's medicines or knowledge of germ theory. In July, after possibly eight weeks of taking the trade, Sarah became ill. She eventually admitted to her sister that she was pregnant and had been taking the trade. On July 24, upon Zerviah's urging, Amasa reluctantly confirmed that the child was his, and he agreed to marry Sarah. However, for whatever reason, the marriage banns were never posted. And on July 30, Amasa visited Sarah and gave her more of the powdered abortifacient to take.

On August 2, Sarah came to her cousin John's house, summoned there by physician Hallowell, where he unsuccessfully attempted a manual abortion using an instrument of some kind. According to later testimony by a friend of Sarah's to whom Sarah had confided, physician Hallowell tried for some time to remove the fetus, putting Sarah in, "utmost distress." Physician Hallowell was unsuccessful in removing the fetus. But two days later, back at her parents' house, Sarah miscarried. Zerviah and their cousin in law, Hannah, helped Sarah to bed and then wrapped the fetus and buried in the woods, in order to keep the situation private, and apparently secret from the elders. For about 10 days, everything was fine, and Sarah was comfortably doing her tasks at home. However, on August 14, Sarah suddenly developed a terrible fever and violent pains. 

As she grew weak, her parents consulted college-educated physicians. Hallowell visited as well. Nothing helped. And on September 14, Sarah Grosvenor died. If that had been the end of the story, the entire situation may have been lost to history. But curiously, three years later, two magistrates in Windham County started an investigation into Sarah's death. In March 1747, the King's attorney brought charges against both physician Hallowell and Amasa Sessions to a grand jury. The grand jury rejected the case against Sessions, but endorsed the case against Hollowell, who was eventually found guilty. He was sentenced to be paraded to the town gallows, where he would stand for two hours, "with a rope visibly hanging about his neck." And then be whipped with 29 lashes. Rather than face the punishment, Hallowell fled. What we know about the pregnancy and death of Sarah Grosvenor came from the depositions in the trial. 

Joining me now, to help us understand more about this case, and its historical context, is Dr. Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, and author of the 1991 article, "Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an 18th Century New England village," and co-creator of the Taking the Trade website. 

Hello, Nina, thanks so much for joining me today.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  8:04  
I'm glad to be here, Kelly.

Kelly Therese Pollock  8:06  
I know this is a weird thing, probably to go back to a piece that you wrote three decades ago. But I want to hear a little bit about how way back then in 1991, you first came to write this piece? You know, sort of what sort of inspired you.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  8:24  
Right. Well, this article, Taking the Trade, came out of my dissertation research. And in essence I had, were just going through almost all the court records in two ways for Connecticut, tracking when women came to court and for what sorts of cases and what were the patterns and how did their participation in litigation and as witnesses compared to men's. And this case was like a one-off case, we might call, you know, to be generous, there wasn't anything else else like it. And so it became an article instead of a book chapter because my book chapters were about areas of the law where there were lots of cases: debt, divorce, slander, premarital sex. So what's extraordinary about this case is that it's, for the 18th century, a very well documented case in which we learn that a young woman was given a powder as an abortifacient. And then when that didn't work, the doctor who consulted with her gave her a manual operation. And we don't really have any other examples of this where there are witnesses and depositions.

Kelly Therese Pollock  9:38  
So then, let's talk a little bit about the court records and how you went about researching for this piece. Talk to me about kind of what what those court records look like, what sorts of things you're able to get out of them.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  9:54  
So if we were able to go to the Connecticut State Archives together, the court records for the most part consist of big folio leather bound books, which are the record books and just summarize the cases that come before a court each term. And this case came before the Superior Court or the Appellate Court of colonial Connecticut. And it probably had just like a one paragraph summary of the eventual trial. But the real key for a historian to be able to write in some and research in some depth is whether there are loose papers or file papers that go along with that one record. And fortunately for Connecticut, because there were not major fires or wars that destroyed court records, as there have been in Virginia and many other states, those file papers survive in extraordinary volume. And so that means that if the lawyers or the prosecutors called witnesses, especially those who were might have been ill at the time or lived more than 20 miles from the courthouse, they gave a written deposition to a Justice of the Peace, and those were forwarded to the, to the judges who read them. And that's what remains in the files. So unlike a modern case, we don't have a judicial opinion handed down. We don't have briefs from the lawyers. But we do have the surviving witnesses and or depositions. And they can tell us a great deal about what neighbors and people kind of adjacent to the main peincipal, did and thought. And that's what we have in this case. So it's those file papers that when you get to the archives, you're literally unfolding them. They're folded in tri fold, bundles, the way they were in the 18th century and tied with ribbons for for each court session. And so you unfold those, and get to read them or take notes on them, or these days, you can take pictures of them.

Kelly Therese Pollock  12:06  
So this is one of the earliest events in history that I have done an episode on. So I really want to help listeners, this is great this talking about sort of unfolding the papers and stuff. I want to help listeners understand sort of the the experience of reading those documents, because they're not typewritten, right. And the language has changed over time, like what what are the challenges that you as a historian face looking at these?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  12:34  
Right, I mean, you do have to get used to the handwriting. And I feel fortunate that I mostly study the 18th century. And it's what we would think of as a cursive script. And so I'm, because I've done this now for decades, so I'm pretty good at doing it. You know, I see my undergraduate students confronting this. And sometimes I bring to class photocopies or scans of these documents, and students actually really enjoy trying to transcribe, but when you're doing it the first time you hesitate, and you leave a lot of blanks and you have to kind of get used to the person's handwriting. My colleagues who work on 17th century Ireland or France or you know, have much greater handwriting and language issues. So I do feel fortunate. And we do find that the court clerks who who were taking and the justice of the peace who were writing these documents, their handwriting differs, right. So some, it's quite easy and some it's phonetic. So there's that handwriting issue. Then I also think as a legal historian, I've had to learn what are the formats right? How do people approach each type of document? Because a lot of these documents even though they're handwritten, they're quite formulaic. So you learn after reading lots of them, what's the formula? You know, it's it's no longer surprising to me that if someone is indicted for murder or a serious felony, the language was instigated by fear of the devil, etcetera. And it turns out that that's just totally boilerplate. So you have to learn to skip sort of skip over that, not put a lot of emphasis on it, and and find the idiosyncratic evidence that is unique to that case. And and I feel, as do other scholars, that we're, we're often getting at people's what I would say vernacular voices in these depositions because they're, you know, Sarah's neighbors, and they're not elites necessarily. And they're not famous people who, like the Presidents whose letters have been preserved, and so we can get a sense maybe of how they spoke, what language they used. Sometimes, you have have to ask other 18th century specialists, what do you think they meant by this? Or use a slang dictionary or? That is to say that we interpret these depositions. And literally, you also have to think, as I tried to do in the article about this abortion case, how witnesses tried to kind of frame or make themselves appear as if they had been morally upright and good people. And then the lawyers are asking questions and generating these depositions. And even though we don't see their questions, you can kind of figure out what they're asking.

Kelly Therese Pollock  15:38  
You know, I have been telling my kids, my kids are 10 and 8, and they don't know cursive, and so I've been telling them, if you want to be historians. That's appatently not a thing that they teach anymore. Yes, right.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  15:52  
I've heard this too. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  15:54  
So then, let's talk some about the case itself. And I want to start with that the language piece because the the title of the article and the website is Taking the Trade. And so let's talk some about what what that phrase meant, and why why it's significant that there even was a phrase for what is happening.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  16:16  
Yes, I do think this is one of those extraordinary or unusual, unusual cases where I've found basically a local terminology that we hadn't found anywhere else. So if you look, trade, t-r-a-d-e up in an 18th century dictionary, one meaning, like the third or fourth on the list, is something like, I haven't done this for a while, but rubbish. That seems to be the closest to to how people in Pomfret, Connecticut, were using it, but they were using it more specifically as something you would take, a medical substance. In this case, the doctor giving it to Sarah, we don't know what it consisted of. It might have been compounds or herbal of herbs, like Savin or Pennyroyal, which, you know, women had known for centuries could could help restore a woman's menstruation or lead to miscarriage or abortion. So we don't know what it was. But what's extraordinary is the young people called it the trade. And they refer to her as taking the trade. And that really is an expression that we had never seen before and not necessarily seen again. In modern lingo, it has other meanings. So it has an interesting linguistic history with different meanings. But this one was quite specific to the situation I just described.

Kelly Therese Pollock  17:46  
Yeah. And it seems like they all knew that, like, it wasn't a you know, somebody said that, you know, somebody else said, "what the heck do you mean by that?" Like this was a well known phrase, at least in this particular region.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  18:00  
Yeah. And what I use the depositions for is to partly get at youth culture at this time period, because one of the interesting things that developed here is that these young people, I'm now forgetting their ages, but Sarah was maybe 19. And her lover Amasa Sessions was maybe, you know, young 20s. And the young women around her were teenagers or 20-somethings. So these youths use this expression, familiarly, as you just said, and they were trying to keep it a secret from her parents. And they seem to have succeeded in that, which also seems amazing keeping the fact of her pregnancy, that Amasa wouldn't marry her. And that she, that she was, as the young woman later said he was pressuring her to take this abortifacient, although she her friend said later, hesitated.

Kelly Therese Pollock  18:59  
I wish we had Sarah's diary! Right. So you mentioned that this is such a unique case. Is it unique that there even was a case? Is it unique that we have so much information from it, you know, what, put this in the larger perspective of what life was like in 18th Century Connecticut, or 18th Century colonies?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  19:27  
Yes, the fact that an attempt was made to deliberately end a pregnancy, both through a powder and then through an operation that that's quite extraordinary for us to know about it. What is quite common about Sarah's case is that she had sex and got pregnant before she married. So we pretty much know from birth and marriage records that a third of all couples in settler New England were, as we put it, pregnant before they married, so their child was born, you know, within seven months of the marriage. So this, what I'm saying, is that the premarital sex was widespread. And of course, the ministers, the congregational Puritan ministers, didn't approve, and they gave sermons, arguing that, that young people shouldn't do this. But it really was a widespread phenomenon in Europe. Julie Hardwick, a professor of history at UT Austin has written a wonderful book about Lyon, France, which is a kind of another regime, but young people, lots of young people, were having relationships and sex before and were not able to marry or, and so it's not just in Connecticut. But um, what what we don't understand is why these two young people didn't marry. The normal thing would have been for them to get married, and the pregnancy sort of pushes them to set a date. And so hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of couples, that's how, that's how their marriage came about. These, these two people were of the same upper middle class standing. So it's hard to understand, from that point of view, why, it seems that Amas decided not to marry Sarah. And this is why they begin to keep it a secret, seek out somewhat shady physician John Hallowell, who, who provides the both the powder abortifacient, what they call the trade, and then performs a manual operation that leads to Sarah miscarrying the fetus a few days later, and then dying, we assume of sepsis of infection on September 14, in 1742.

Kelly Therese Pollock  21:49  
So what was the actual crime that was being charged here?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  21:54  
Right, so one interesting thing about the legal story here is that Sarah died, as I said, in 1742, and it wasn't until three years later, the prosecutors in Windham county started to bring charges. And so why that three year gap, there's an intriguing paragraph in a local, by local early 20th century historian of the county, that that says oral tales circulated that Sarah's sister was haunted by her, Sarah's ghost, who was asking Zerviah to, the sister to see that justice be brought about. So who knows what. You know, the young women who who survived Sarah seemed to have felt felt haunted perhaps. But anyway, there was a three year gap and then the prosecutors start to try, to try the case. But they have to go through three or four attempts before a grand jury will accept the bill of indictment that they bring to them. So in the end, they only indict that the doctor which in a way makes sense, because he's the one who performed the operation, John Hallowell. And interestingly, they do not indict him for murder or for a felony, but for what they call a high handed misdemeanor, of contriving and by actual force and violence, attempting and endeavoring, attempting, basically to injure the health and soundness of Sarah, and to destroy the fruit of her womb, and to destroy and cause it to perish. So they're, they're indicting him for endangering her health. And, of course, they don't say so. But she died after after this happened. And as they put it, the fruit of her womb. And the last important point to make is that this was after she had experienced quickening, which is usually in the fourth or fifth month, when the mother feels the fetus moving inside of her.

Kelly Therese Pollock  24:09  
So presumably, since everyone knew this phrase, taking the trade, and there was a doctor willing to perform manual abortion, this must not be the only case of these things happening. But other cases don't, you know, don't seem to have gone to trial. Does it seem like what is the problem here is because it's so far along in the pregnancy? Is it because she died? Like what why is it that this case is treated differently?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  24:37  
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm not sure we can be certain and you're right. I was just looking at my notes, you know, because after I wrote and published the piece, so I wanted to know, do we have other cases, and if we do, they're very fragmentary, where a court, and we don't know if it was before quickening. We don't know if it was an operation. Usually, it's just attempting to use an abortifacient to stop a pregnancy. So, I mean, here I agree that the mother died, and that seemed to have really jarred everyone and brought it to the attention of the authorities, although late. We don't know why. Her father actually was a justice of the peace. And he was in his 70s. So he was married, when this happened to a second wife. And he, and so we're not really sure. She kept it a secret from him. You know, was he a man with a terrible temper? I mean, we just we just don't know why. You would think that if he was the moving force behind the prosecution, it would have been more immediate. Yeah. So there are real mysteries there. But I think the one point that's important to make is that this case shows us what the few other abortion prosecutions that we can find in England or British America at this time show, which is that prosecution, they're very rare, but they're not for murder. They're not at the, the felony level; they're at the next level down, a misdemeanor. And that's basically what the common law treatises in in England that that American lawyers would have consulted would say, that this should be treated as a misdemeanor.

Kelly Therese Pollock  26:22  
One of the reasons, of course, that we're thinking about this now and looking at this case, again, and presumably something that you wouldn't have been able to predict 30 years ago when you wrote this, is that it's relevant to a recent Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs decision, where they actually referenced the history and you know, what, what it might have been like in colonial America, as the framers were writing the Constitution. Can you talk some to that point, about how this case doesn't necessarily support that idea of of what was put in the Dobbs decision?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  27:01  
Right. Well, the Alito opinion, as many, as several historians and very good op eds have pointed out, gets the history wrong, and deliberately, I suspect. So the key legal situation, at the time of the Revolution, or in the 1740s, as the case we've been discussing, was that in English law, if a woman attempted to stop a pregnancy before quickening, before she felt that fetus move, was not illegal in any way. It was not criminalized, it was it was not illegal, and social historians would argue it was tolerated, but Alito's opinion kind of elides that, slips over that. And the second point that historians make that's effective is that when individual states starting with Connecticut, actually, in 1821, began to pass statutes addressing abortion, they really were aimed at protecting young women, young mothers, from medical malpractice, from from harm. We also don't have any legislative debate about them or any lobbying. So we're not really sure if they were tacked on to other to revision of the criminal code. So we're so we don't really have testimony about public opinion, et cetera. And at the same time, in the 19th century, if we looked at the newspapers of New York City, they're full of kind of coded ads, for potions you can take to restore your menstruation. And that's kind of a mixed bag for us looking back, because people at this time really thought if a woman's menstruation stopped not because she was pregnant, then it was really unhealthy for her and she should do what she could to restore it. So those ads can be read two ways, right one as a coded message that here's something you can take, perhaps to stop a pregnancy. But there also are, were interpreted really as a way to restore your health. But the point is that the people, as you pointed out, sort of knew about the possibility of ending pregnancies and thought they had some ways of doing it. And we're uncertain about how effective those potions were and when they when they were effective, it's hard to know. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  29:27  
Yeah. One of the things that you have also done besides just writing this journal article is to put these materials up on on a website. Can you talk some about that, and sort of that that public history piece of it. It's an incredible resource, so I'll put it in the show notes so people can look at it too, but sort of the reasons behind doing that and you know what, what we're able to get from putting resources like that up.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  29:56  
Right, well, thank you. I keep meaning to kind of update and work on it some more. But I guess I'm a big believer in making the original documents public for something that will be of interest. So, and something that's sort of extraordinary like this unusual, right? There aren't lots and lots of other documents like this. And I believe that either readers of my article should be able to take issue with me or see things that I didn't see. Of course, I pored over those those documents over and over again. But there were perhaps leads I didn't follow or things I didn't understand at the time. So I think of it as having more life and continuity and a continuing conversation if people can both look at the original documents and then some of the supporting materials, you know, that are, that me, the researcher created, like a cast of characters can be complicated if you're reading these for the first time, the timelines, that can be helpful. The piece has been used a lot in teaching at the college level. So that that's, it grew out of my friend, Woody Holton, who then taught at the University of Richmond. He wanted, he wanted to create a site to kind of frame the article for students. So that's, so we collaborated on it. And then Jessica Linker, now a professor at Northeastern, designed it for me. So it's something I'd like to work on over the next year and update and refresh a bit and see if we can add a bit more ideas for lesson plans and materials that have come to light since the 1991 article. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  31:40  
Yeah, yeah, it's fantastic. I, as I was looking at the timeline, and the the cast of characters, I was like, I wish every history book and every history article had this.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  31:50  
Sometimes I think that's how we should think of our projects, you know, if we can, the digital the web component.

Kelly Therese Pollock  31:58  
Yeah, yeah, I love it. And it was such an early example of that, um, you know, as you said it, your friend first worked on it, I think it was like 2001. Very, very early in, in the web, and then you created these pages in 2007. So yeah, I think I hope we're gonna see more and more of this, because I think it's really helpful. I wanted to ask, too, you mentioned earlier that one of the things you're trying to do in this piece is sort of get at the way youth culture, at the way that that young people talk and act and react in relationship to the sort of older people. And you've done that you've looked at that sort of language in other times, too, that you're, you know, sort of looking at, what what were real people doing in history. I wonder if you could talk about that. And the, you know, that's sort of the theme of this podcast, in a way is sort of, you know, what was everyone else doing besides the, you know, presidents they hear about all the time. So I wonder if you could talk about that in the importance of doing that research and kind of how you go about trying to get a real people's experiences?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  33:08  
Well, I'd be on one aspect of that might be sort of the history of sex, right? I mean, that, the most prosecuted crime in these New England colonies was what they called fornication or premarital sex. And in essence, the young people or young couples prosecuted for this came into court and were sort of slapped on the wrist. I mean, they were fined. In the 17th century, you might be whipped if you couldn't come up with your 40 shilling fine. But it's a pretty minor, but very frequent prosecution. You know, undergrad students are sometimes surprised at the testimony that sometimes comes up more likely in a prosecution for adultery, say, where were the where the, the witnesses might have overseen the tryst, the meeting between the lovers right sneaking out into the woods at night or whatever. And, you know, it's what Edmund Morgan, a famous Yale historian said long ago, these Puritans and their descendants were quite forthright about sex and, you know, would use words for, sometimes the word penis, but you know, the man's yard or the state of undress or. So, you know, so they were quite frank and forthright. And of course, the one point we haven't perhaps made yet about Sarah's situation, trying to abort a pregnancy is that the woman is is trying to cover up what her neighbors would have seen as her the first sin which was having premarital sex. So even though it was widely accepted, in some ways, it also still was condemned morally, and you could get into trouble in the law. You could get into trouble with your parents. And so her language and other people's language will often indicate that on the rare occasions that we know that someone attempted to have an abortion, they were really trying to cover up the original sin, which was seen as pregnancy or in the case of working class women serving, and often women of color, serving as servants in households, they, they were rightfully afraid they would lose their position if they became pregnant and had a child. And it's in those cases that sometimes resulted in infanticide prosecutions, that we see juries often being surprisingly sympathetic to young women in those situations, and looking for ways to find the young woman not guilty of a capital crime. And one of the issues is we often, they didn't know we don't know if the child was stillborn. And the mother had not actually deliberately killed or smothered her child, even though she was accused of that. Yeah. So I think infanticide prosecutions need to be considered alongside these rare abortion cases.

Kelly Therese Pollock  36:13  
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, again, who knew this would become so relevant again, but I think that's the sort of thing we might start to see again, although, of course, our medical science is better at now at distinguishing was the baby stillborn or not? But it seems to be increasing cases where the, you just don't know.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  36:33  
In miscarriage, can you get to the hospital, right. And like pregnancy, it's going to be a huge ethical issue for young women and for medical providers. And of course, in the 18th century, there weren't paternity tests, right. So that's another issue is that men could often just deny: I'm not the father, and accuse the young woman of keeping company, as they would have said, with other men. And so she often bore the brunt of the moral disapproval. But the one thing my research did show that I think it's important to say is that is that parents did not throw out daughters who became pregnant and didn't, didn't marry. They usually supported the the woman and her child, and she often married a few years later, and her husband informally adopted the child.

Kelly Therese Pollock  37:22  
So then let's sort of wrap up this case with kind of what what happened. So you said in the end, it was only the doctor who was actually indicted with a crime. What was the outcome then?

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  37:38  
Yeah, so the outcome is it went to a jury, and they found him guilty. And they prescribed a punishment, like sort of shaming and whipping publicly at the whipping post. But by then, John Hallowell, who was a kind of wily character, had fled to the neighboring colony of Rhode Island. And he took up residence in Rhode Island and stayed there, I think as a medical practitioner, and apothecary, for the rest of his life. He married a woman, it looked like he was already kind of courting that woman, because this part of Connecticut is not far from the Rhode Island border. So he escaped punishment is what I'm telling you, Kelly, but the trial did come to an end and ended in a guilty verdict. But, you know, would lawyers and prosecutors and other state, colonies and states later on have known about this? Not necessarily, because none of these, before the 1790s, there were not court reporters, there were not published accounts or records of either judicial opinions or, or the results of criminal trials. So not necessarily, it would have spread only by word of mouth.

Kelly Therese Pollock  38:51  
So it was probably pretty easy to escape prosecution for such things. And of course, there's no national medical board, that's licensing doctors either. So that's the sort of thing that might catch up with someone now, that wouldn't have done. And, of course, the outcome for Amasa, so the father of the baby, is that he lives his life. And that's great.

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  39:16  
That's right. I mean, I do make that point at the end, which is that he marries and has children and is esteemed in the community of Pomfret, which seems kind of extraordinary to me. And also, that in other generations, there are relationships between descendants of Sarah and the Sessions family. Now, maybe that's not to be unexpected, because because they were prominent families in a small, you know, somewhat rural town and, but as I say, In the article, I would love to know how women of Pomfret talked about this when it was happening, or after Sarah died, and if there was a sort of gender division because one of the notable things about the 18th century is that there was a strong double standard about women and men receiving criticism and being at risk legally for sexual misdeeds. Right. So so there is an emerging I think, a sense of male sexual entitlement, white propertied men, whereas women continue, in some ways to to be much more vulnerable to slurs on their sexual reputations. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  40:35  
So I will put links in the show notes, both to the website, the Taking the Trade website, and then also if people have JSTOR access, they can they can access the original article from 1991. Nina, thank you so much for speaking with me. It's a great article, people should read it and the website is just fantastic. So I really, really appreciate the time that was put into that. So thank you. 

Cornelia Hughes Dayton  41:01  
And I'm very happy if people want to contact me at my email address at UConn.edu, if they want to follow up or ask questions. I'm always glad to communicate with people. And thank you, Kelly, this was great fun. 

Kelly Therese Pollock  41:14  
Great. Thank you.

Teddy  41:17  
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode at UnsungHistoryPodcast.com. To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or are used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @Unsung__History, or on Facebook at Unsung History Podcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email Kelly@UnsungHistoryPodcast.com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review and tell your friends.

 

Cornelia H. Dayton Profile Photo

Cornelia H. Dayton

Cornelia Dayton spent most of her childhood in Pennsylvania and Maine. In 1979 she graduated from Harvard-Radcliffe College, magna cum laude in history and government. After receiving her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 1986 where she worked principally with Stanley N. Katz and John Murrin, Dayton held a two-year postdoctoral fellowship and assistant professorship at the Institute of Early American History and Culture at the College of William and Mary. She was on the History faculty of the University of California at Irvine between 1988 and 1997. She is currently working on the two book projects listed below. Since 2001, she has held several residential fellowships—at the Huntington Library in California; the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University; the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA; and the Univ. of Connecticut Humanities Institute.