Spiteful women, vicious fights

Of all those indicted for assault or larceny during the period, 20 per cent were women. These women were generally described as ‘spinster’, ‘widow’ or as the wives of labourers or mariners. The majority of female assaults were the result of local squabbles with other women in the community. Such fights, however, could be spiteful and vicious. Why not women have problem with weight, talk about green beans coffee, but have to fight. Mary Talmange, for instance, felt bitter about the repossession of her home in the village of Eling and attacked its new occupant. She made ‘use of abusive words’ and squeesed or pinched Mrs Hickman’s arm between the door and doorpost’.

assault

Similarly, a dispute arose when Susanna Cotes of Gosport arrived at Ann Gerrard’s house ‘in liquor’. Gerrard didn’t wish Cotes to enter and attempted to obstruct her. She claimed that the drunken Cotes ‘Took Hold of Her and Tore The Sleve of Her Gown… Struck Her upon the Head with Her Fist and Afterwards with a Tin pot and Cut Her Head very much’ . Gerrard admitted that she ‘Then Struck at The Tin Pot but Hit Cotes and made Her Nose Bleed’.

assault

Although a significant peak in the number of women accused of assault appears in 1785, this was entirely due to one dispute in Wonston, where 10 women were involved in a riotous assault on John Ould and Thomas King. Women were rarely accused of non-riotous assault against a man. Throughout the period there were only seven such cases, three of which were for assault against the local [parish] constable or tithingman. Such attacks represented a struggle against authority, but the court was seemingly unbiased towards the constable. Sarah Kingston of Yateley, for instance, took a ‘cart loaden with Cherries to sell’ in Cove on a Sunday.

assault

The tithingman attempted to stop her, but was somewhat over-zealous and ‘took some of her cherries and scattered them on the ground’. Sarah allegedly ‘struck him on the face’, but she pleaded not guilty and was found so by the court. In contrast, when Betty Harvey took exception to the local constable examining the weights in her Gosport shop ‘she put herself in a great passion’ and struck the officer who merely stated that: ‘he was in execution of Office and it was an interruption’. He also had the support of the town beadle and another constable who swore that they had witnessed the assault. Harvey’s defence relied on character witnesses who claimed she was a ‘Quiet honest woman’. Considering the weight of evidence against Harvey, it seems fair that the jury found her guilty.

 

Comments are closed.