Rape in Colonial America

Query from Judith Dykes-Hoffman tchoffm@texas.net 29 Jan 1999

I need some help in answering a student's question concerning rape in colonial america.I have a student in my upper division women's history class who wants to know how many rapes were reported, how many were brought to trial, and how many guilty verdicts were returned in the cases in any of the colonies. The time frame would be from the mid 1600s until the revolutionary war. If anyone knows of an article, or book that deals w/rape in colonial america I would appreciate the title(s). I look forward to any replies.


  • From Cindy Hahamovitch

    Sharon Block (Assistant Professor of History at U. of Iowa) has written a book on just this topic, but, as far as I know, it's not out yet. Your student may want to look for her doctoral dissertation (Princeton, I think)

  • From Alan Taylor

    I believe that Sharon Block (perhaps Bloch) of the history dept. at the University of Iowa is writing a book on the subject of rape in colonial America.

  • From Tiffany K. Wayne

    You should be able to find information in either of these two books which look at women and colonial law & trial courts:

    Mary Beth Norton, _Founding Mothers & Fathers_ (1996 -- covers New England & Chesapeake)

    Cornelia Hughes Dayton, _Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, & Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789_ (1995)

  • From Sandra F. VanBurkleo svanbur@sprynet.com

    Cornelia Dayton's book, WOMEN BEFORE THE BAR, deals with many such questions, especially for British North American Connecticut.

  • From Lisa Cardyn lcardyn

    The best works on the subject are the articles and book written by Cornelia Hughes Dayton. The book, published roughly 4 years ago, is titled WOMEN BEFORE THE BAR, and has an excellent chapter devoted to rape in the colonial era. I believe that her articles are cited in the bibliography. Hope this helps.

  • From Judith Travers

    You might want to take a look at "Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present" by Elizabeth Pleck (Oxford; 1987). While not a book on rape per se, it contains some info and might help you track down other sources.

  • From Myra Rich

    ... Also there is one episode discussed in Laurel Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale. Myra Rich,

  • From Robert E. Wright

    I know that Jack Marietta and another scholar whose name escapes me have assembled a database of all known crimes in PA through the colonial period. They even have some stats. on the occupation, taxable wealth, etc. of both the victims and the assailants. They gave a paper last spring at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I'd check with them for details, contact info., etc.

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  • From Catherine Clinton

    I can recommend essays by Diane Sommerville and others in the volume THE DEVIL'S LANE: SEX AND RACE IN THE EARLY SOUTH to look at questions of sexuality and rape. (edited by Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie, Oxford University Press, 1997)

  • From Shannon Frystak sfrystak@cisunix.unh.edu

    You might also want to look at Kathleen Brown's book, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs. She too has some information on rape, however no stats, or few that I recall.

  • From Joan Gundersen gunderj@elon.edu 02 Feb 1999

    The suggestions on rape are all appropriate, but you should also look at Barbara Lindenmann's article, " 'To Ravish and Carnally Know':Rape in Eighteenth Century Massachusetts," _Signs_: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society_, X (Autumn 1984).

    Other Responses:

    Brown, Kathleen _Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs_

    Dayton, Cornelia Hughes _Women Before the Bar :Gender, Law & Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789_ (1995)

    Lindemann, Barbara " 'To Ravish and Carnally Know": Rape in Eighteenth Century Massachusetts," _Signs_ A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, X (Autumn 1984).

    Norton, Mary Beth _Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society_(1996)

    Pleck, Elizabeth _Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present_ (Oxford, 1987).

    Sommerville, Diane (and others) with essays in _The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South_, Clinton , Catherine and Michelle Gillespie, Eds.; (Oxford U Press, 1997)

    Ulrich, Laurel _A Midwife's Tale_