Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hope Emerges

     While the fight over the Fifteenth Amendment was being waged in the east, the western states and territories were more favorable to women’s suffrage.
     The first territorial legislature of the Wyoming Territory granted full voting rights to women in 1869. On September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election.
Louisa Swain
In 1890, the U.S. Congress demanded Wyoming rescind the right of women to vote as a condition of statehood. The Wyoming legislature responded in a telegram: “We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women.” Congress gave in. Wyoming became the 44th state and the first state in which women had full voting rights. 

     Utah had a more turbulent history in relation to women’s suffrage. The territory was home to many Mormon communities that practiced polygamy. Politicians opposed to the practice of polygamy believed if women were given the vote it would help to end the practice. On the other hand, many Mormon men supported voting rights for women to prove to the nation their wives were not oppressed by polygamy.

     In 1870, the Utah territory passed legislation that enfranchised women. This lasted until 1887, when the United States Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Anti-Polygamy Act. The act placed restrictions on the Mormon Church, including disincorporating it and seizing its property. It required individuals to take an anti-polygamy oath in order to vote, hold public office or serve on juries. The Edmunds-Tucker Act also disenfranchised all women in the Utah Territory. Both Mormon and non-Mormon women formed suffrage organizations.
      When Utah Territory applied for statehood in 1895, women convinced politicians to include women’s suffrage in the new state Constitution. When Utah became a state in January of 1896, women were again legally able to vote.
     Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, women continued to fight for the right to vote. In a piecemeal array of states, territories, counties and towns, they won different configurations of partial voting rights. Usually, those rights allowed women to vote only for local officials such as school board members, city officers and/or county representatives. But in most of the country, woman were still excluded from participating in elections. 

      In 1872, Susan B. Anthony, voted in the election in Rochester, New York, although the state had not granted suffrage rights to women. Her sisters and eleven other women also voted in the election. They argued that constitutional language gave them the legal right to cast ballots. They were subsequently arrested for voting. Anthony was held on $1000 bail ($21,157 in today’s dollars), the rest were held on $500 bail each. The following year, Anthony was denied a trial by jury and lost her case. She was fined $100 plus court costs.
      The U.S. Congress first introduced a suffrage amendment in 1878. Four years later, the House and Senate appointed committees on woman suffrage. Both favored votes for women. Two years after the favorable reports, the U.S. House of Representatives debated woman suffrage. In 1886, the suffrage amendment finally reached the floor of the U.S. Senate. It was defeated.

     As women received partial voting rights in some places, they began running for public offices. Many women won positions as school board members, county clerks, state legislators, judges, and other local officials. In 1884, Belva Lockwood, the first female to be admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, even ran for president. Although she lost handily, women had started to gain political clout. But the fight for suffrage was far from over. 

Previous installments:
Voting in Colonial America:


The Fight Begins:

A Rupture in the Cause

Ann Markim

 Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Medieval May - a picture blog

My latest historical romance, "The Master Cook and the Maiden" takes place in early spring but mentions summer as a time for travel. May in particular for people in the Middle Ages was both very busy and a time of relaxation and pleasure. After the hard graft of winter and spring, May was a holiday month in early summer, with few tasks in the agricultural calendar. May Day, a blend of Christian and older pagan traditions, was celebrated by everyone, with dancing, revels and drink.

May was the time when people would go wandering in the fields and woodlands, to enjoy the fresh greenery and woodland flowers. It was also blossom time, when the fruit trees and hedgerows burst into bloom, wild cherries and wild apples following each other in glorious profusion.

Later summer was a harder task-master: if a peasant worked on the land, later summer was when the sheep were sheared, then the hay and wheat harvests were gathered in. Summer, too, was often the prime time for military activity, when knights might be called to fight for their overlord or king on campaign. However, even in these months there was merry-making.

Midsummer was marked by bonfires, a pagan ‘left-over’ from the earlier festival of Beltane and celebrated in the Middle Ages as the saint’s day of St John. Young couples would sometimes leap over the midsummer bonfire for luck. Wells could also be dressed with flowers around this time – a relic of earlier water-spirit worship, and still carried on today.

I touch on some of these customs in my novella "Midsummer Maid", part of "A Knight's Choice and Other Romances."
July was marked by St Swithin’s day, when the strewings in the churches would be changed from the winter rushes and straw to the summer hay and sedges, and August saw the feast time of Lammas – loaf mass – to give thanks for the hard-won harvest.

[Photo of oxeye daisies and cornflowers by Colin Smith, photo of well-dressing by Bob Embleton, both of The fifteenth-century stained glass harvesting scene is from the Victoria and Albert Museum. All three sourced from Wikimedia Commons.]

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Book review: Hollow Heart by Sarah McNeal



Madeline Andrews is a grown up orphan. Sam Wilding made her feel part of his life, his family and swore he’d come home to her when the war ended, but he didn’t return. With the Valentine’s Ball just days away, the Wildings encourage Madeline to move forward with her life and open her heart to the possibilities. But Madeline is lost in old love letters and can’t seem to let go.

My review:

I was looking for a shorter story that would still dish out all the feels, and this one popped up and I'm so glad it did!  I've read a couple of the Wildings stories and this was an awesome addition to their family's tales.

Set just after WW2 has ended, Madeline and her "adopted" family through the man she loved are grieving his loss - MIA in the war.  They're encouraging her that it's time to start living again and not hiding away. Her sense of sweetness and abiding love for Sam and his family shines off the page.

While we don't see Sam much in the story, he is present on every page, because the memory of him lives on in Madeline and his family.  You can still feel the sense of honor and love Sam carried for his family, and the responsibility he had in the war.

The ending was perfect - all the feels and even some tears may have been falling.  The words and the moment combined with that same abiding love that was felt from page one of the story delivered a breathtaking conclusion.

Purchase links:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Tobacco Brides

A couple years ago, I wrote an article for USA Today and later for RWR Magazine on how 45 authors got together and wrote 50 novellas about mail order brides. The trope of mail order brides has been a staple in western romance for years, but the way these ladies packaged their product and featured one bride in each state was what made it new and different.  

Of course the concept of mail-order brides isn’t unique to America. It’s been a method of matrimony in all parts of the world and is still is use today. But I was surprised to find the concept in America didn’t start with the gold rush in the western United States, as originally thought. It really began with the first colony established in the country by the British. Jamestown. 

Jamestown in 1607 was established with the hope this new country would be capable of growing tobacco. At the time, England had a fierce addiction to the product, and men, women and children all had clay pipes and a need for tobacco. Most of the product was purchased from Spain, who owned the Caribbean islands along with Central and South America, so perfect for growing tobacco. Most of the incoming tobacco was smuggled into the country, in order to circumvent the hefty import tax Britain imposed on the product. So Britain wasn’t collecting the tax, and a lot of coin was being spent on the smuggled goods. They had to do something. 

Their first step was to offer the men of Jamestown a tract of land each to work. But what the men really wished for was the companionship of a woman. So England rounded up twelve women–one widow and eleven maidens–as the first shipment in 1619. They arrived on America’s shores and were put up for auction, the price being 120 pounds of tobacco for each woman. The ladies could reject any offers being put forth, and would be housed in appropriate quarters until a man captured their fancy. However, there were no reports that these first twelve were not wed by the eve of their arrival. The reason for the fee for the ladies helped to prove the men were industrious and hard-working and would be capable of supporting a wife and their future children. Only free men who owned land were eligible bachelors for these women. Indentured servants, who were working off the cost of their passage, were not eligible to marry until their servitude ended, typically lasting seven years. 

But who were these ladies? Where did they come from? The logical assumption is that early America was a disposal for those in England’s jails, as was the case in Australia in its early days. But that seems not to be the case for these Jamestown brides. The widow, Anne Rickard, had tired of her life in a London parish and wished for a fresh start in a new country. The reason why these ladies chose to make a treacherous overseas voyage was no different from the reasons American women chose to head west on wagon trains as mail order brides–a lack of available men in the parts of the world where they were located. An economic depression in England made men hesitate to marry and have a family to support. England also worried about a dwindling supply of people in the colony, since there was loss from disease, accidents and hunger. 

Bringing women to the colony and beginning to settle it by building churches and then schools for the forthcoming children seemed to be a good idea. A call went out from the Virginia Company for “young, handsome and honestly educated maids.” All those willing had to submit letters of recommendation and to have someone vouch for them in person at the Virginia Company in London. These ladies came from a multitude of social backgrounds. Some were the daughters of working class families, some came from the homes of titled gentlemen. The Virginia Company was very interested in the homemaking skills each woman possessed. If they could cook, bake, spin yarn, sew, make butter and cheese, so much the better. The Virginia Company outfitted these ladies for the voyage with clothing,  bedding, gloves and white caps, called coifs, which they could wear once they married. 

The fee rose from 120 pounds to 150 pounds of tobacco. The next shipment of ladies were 90 in number. In total 144 Tobacco Brides were brought to the shores of America by the Virginia Company, between 1619 and 1622. Only six of them survived longer than six years in Jamestown. 


Monday, May 18, 2020

Old Cowtown Museum - an Insider's Perspective

I conducted this interview by telephone with Old Cowtown volunteer reenactor and photographer Niki Pauline Conard back in early March.  For obvious reasons, I've postponed this blog post several times, wanting to wait until they might be opening up for the season.  Since things are still so uncertain, and since I think we all need to daydream about future travels, I'm going ahead with it this month.

Old Cowtown Museum, located in Wichita, Kansas, was founded in 1950.  It's the largest living history museum west of the Mississippi, at 23 acres.  While the buildings in Old Cowtown have been transported there, 95-98% of them are actual historical buildings, from all over Kansas.  The way the museum is set up, you move forward in time, beginning around 1868-70 with the Heller cabin, trappers cabin, and Munger house.  By the time you get the the farm further along, you're in the 1880s.

Under normal circumstances, Old Cowtown is open year-round, for limited hours in the winter season (normally November 1 through April 1), and with a fuller schedule from April through the end of October. 

While school tours make a substantial amount of their business, events and tourism are also a significant part of what Old Cowtown does.   Living historian re-enactors volunteer for events centered around the Civil War and gunfighters, but there are also Once Upon a Time fairy tale events, Halloween events, and steampunk events, to attract a broad range of visitors.

Ghost tours are among the most popular events at Old Cowtown, with the Wichita Paranormal Society regularly involved, and from a bit further away, the Tennessee Wraith Chasers having visited as well.  Several of the buildings on the site are believed to be haunted, and quite a few of the volunteers have stories about strange experiences they've had in these buildings.   Foremost among these is the Murdoch House, which was the residence of Marshall Murdoch, founder and editor of the Wichita Eagle newspaper from 1872 until his death in 1908.  Murdoch's 8 year old daughter haunts it, and sometimes Murdoch himself has been seen there.

Last year, Niki was the committee head for the Age of the Gunfighter event.  150 re-enactors who specialize in Old West gunfighting came from as far away as Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina to participate.  Most of them camped on the grounds, historical style.  This June, a new event, the Women of the West 19th Amendment Celebration was scheduled to debut.

With only seven employees, Old Cowtown relies on its volunteers.  Some of the re-enactors play roles like Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, or Buffalo Bill Cody, and stay in characer.  Others play skinners (fur traders), Buffalo soldiers, and Victorian ladies.  They don't have tour guides at Cowtown -- rather, people wander around and investigate on their own.  During season, the museum also hires interpreters who have specific skills that allow them to play roles like carpenter, blacksmith, or printer.  Re-enactors in museums hold themselves to high standards -- the clothing must be exactly right, and there must be a reason for what each character does.  At the same time, they also need to entertain the visitors.  The Cherokee Light horse Civil War re-enactors are regulars, as are the Dalton gang of Coffeyville, Kansas and the Gunfighters at Flint Hills, with the Guthrie Gunfighters turning up for special events as well.

Niki got involved with living history reenactments when she was living in Oklahoma in 2000, and when she moved back to her hometown of Wichita, sought out a place where she could get involved.  Niki herself usually presents a Cattle Queen look, a gunfighter outfit that mixes long skirts with some menswear elements.  The ladies in proper Victorian dress snub her, as part of the play.  She does have some Victorian dresses for events like Victorian Christmas.   When we spoke back in March, she was looking forward to a Dress Reform outfit that she'd be able to wear to ride her horse.  While women during that time period actually rode side saddle, very few re-enactors go that far.

I learned about Old Cowtown when Niki became an Internet friend, and I'm certainly hoping to make a visit out there someday.  For the Prairie Roses who live closer than I do, it's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in real Western history.  Have you been there already?   Please share in the comments.

To find out more about Old Cowtown and about Niki's photography:
Old Cowtown website
Old Cowtown on Facebook
Cowtown through the Lens of RedRock & Friends
Niki's portfolio on Instagram

And to read my Prairie Rose debut, Courting Anna,

Connect with me online:
Website & Blog:
Twitter: @CateSimon3

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Work in Progress sneak peak by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #workinprogress #westernromance

I work on multiple stories at the same time. I write on one until I hit a snag then I hop over to a different story and so forth. Right now, I'm working on two projects that I will submit to Prairie Rose Publications by the end of the summer.

One is a revisiting of a previously published western romance novel that deserves a good revamping prior to republishing. The other is this one that I’m sharing a sneak peek with you. It is a novella-length western romance I’m roughly halfway finished writing. The tentative title is The Locket.

The idea for the story evolved from this postcard I purchased in Kingman, Arizona a few years ago while on a round-trip train ride from Lamar, Colorado to Kingman.

I’ve changed the train robbery to a stagecoach holdup. Kissing the wimmin folk is the spark that lights the story’s fire.

Here’s the kissing scene that fans that plot flame between the hero, John Thomas (aka J.T. Barlow), and the heroine, Ada Snowden. Ada, in failing health and recently widowed, is returning home after being away for twenty years. J.T is a member of an outlaw gang that holds-up the stage she's on. The gang’s leader has demanded Ida relinquish her gold locket. Ida has flatly refused as the locket was a gift from her deceased husband. The leader is about to work her over with quirt when J.T. intervenes.

Excerpt (work in progress and subject to change)

“My parents taught me to respect women, not mistreat them. Besides, a pretty woman should be appreciated, not roughed up.” He looked her over, the lines around his eyes crinkling with amusement. “And you are sure enough a handsome woman—a woman who takes pride in keeping herself up for a man. Mmm mmm mmm.”

The illicit suggestion in his tone sent her hand flying, but he caught her arm before her palm made contact with his face. Never physically mistreated in her life, the iron grip of his fingers clamped around her wrist brought out the fight in her, especially since the sparkle in his eyes said he was still grinning.

“Widow lady, huh?”

“Yes.”She hissed the word through her clenched teeth.

“Where are you headed?”

“Burney Springs, if it’s any of your business.” Ada pulled vainly against his grip.

There was a chuckle in his voice, and the lines around his eyes deepened. “What’s your name?”

“Are you keeping a record of the women you rob?”

“Maybe I am.” He snorted a grunting chuckle. “For posterity.”

Ada saw the flicker of a frown push away the smile around his eyes, and she wondered if she’d touched the fringes of some deeper truth.

“Well,” he prodded. “You have a name?”

“Ada Snowden. Mrs. Snowden to you. I’d ask your name, but I doubt a bandit would give an honest response.”

The taunting gleam in his eyes returned. “Don’t be so hasty to judge. What you see on the outside might be deceiving.” He released her arm as he leaned into her, his broad chest pressing against her bosom. “It’s a matter of pride now. It can’t get out that we show favorites when we rob folks. Our reputations as road agents would be ruined. When we turn to robbing trains and banks…or stealing watermelons from a preacher’s garden, people have to respect us, fear us.” He chuckled softly, amused with himself. He put his gloved hand over hers where it rested protectively over her locket. “Let me have it.”

“No.” Ada grabbed the bottom of his bandana and yanked. Startled, he stepped back. She braced herself, fully expecting he’d strike her. Instead, a slow, widening grin spread over his face. A face with angular, chiseled features, strong jaw, and cleft chin. A face that was nice to look at and made her just a little weak in her already shaky knees.

“I admire a gutsy woman.” Grasping her shoulders with his big hands, he pushed her backwards until she came up hard against the side of the stagecoach with an oompf. “Now that you know my face, here’s something so you won’t forget me.”

He leaned into her. The heat from his body brought the already scorching temperature up several degrees. The moment his lips touched hers, all thoughts of resistance dissolved, and so help her, she closed her eyes and kissed him back. Why she didn’t resist this stranger’s kiss, she didn’t know. Feelings rose from a place deep down inside she’d buried ages before she’d laid her husband to rest two years ago. Neither could she say why when he put his hand over hers again that she loosened her grip on the locket and allowed him to slip his fingers inside hers. With a tug, the clasp broke, and he withdrew the locket as his lips left hers.

“Seems to me you liked that kiss.” The deep husky rasp in his voice suggested he’d gotten more than he’d anticipated. “Maybe it’s the best you’ve ever had.” Tucking the locket into his watch pocket, he pulled up his bandana, returned to his horse, and swung into the saddle. The bandits raced off behind the leader, but the man lingered.

Touching the front of his hat, he said, “Nice to meet you, Ada Snowden. Around these parts, I’m known as John Thomas. Remember my name. I’m gonna be famous.”

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Stay in contact with Kaye—

Monday, May 11, 2020

Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton

Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton (October 26, 1860 – April 8, 1958)
When Francis Boardman Eaton was eight years old, his family joined the rush to Kansas, establishing their homestead eight miles west of Carbondale, KS. One night, shortly after arriving, his father was gunned down by a gang of lawless Southerners who called themselves “the Regulators.”
Encouraged and taught by his father’s friend and neighbor, young Frank learned to shoot with a Dragoon cap and ball pistol. He became proficient enough that he could shoot the head off a rattlesnake with either hand by merely “point firing”—not taking the time to aim.
In 1875 Frank went to Fort Gibson where the 6th Cavalry was stationed. When he outshot everyone at the fort, the commander, Colonel Copinger, gave him a badge for his marksmanship and the nickname “Pistol Pete.”
In 1887, he learned that two of his father’s killers were living just southwest of Webbers Falls, Indian Territory. Eaton rode into the clearing where the cabin was located and saw one grabbing a rifle on the porch. Frank gave the outlaw time to aim, but he was still no match for Frank’s fast draw. He found the other man working cattle in a nearby clearing. Eaton shot him off his horse with “two forty-five slugs through his breast”. Both of the outlaws were known cattle thieves and, for his actions against them, Eaton was hired as a detective by the Cattlemen’s Association.
Photo from @exploringmissouriozarks
Eaton then set off to find one of the men’s brother who had been helping sell the stolen cattle in Missouri. The night before he arrived, the outlaw was killed for stealing a jack from the bottom of a deck in a poker game. Eaton attended his funeral just to make sure he was dead. While there, he learned that two more of his father’s killers had a small ranch in the Ozarks. Eaton found the brothers at home and challenged them to a duel, killing both of them only feet apart.
Eaton then got wind that the last killer was tending bar in Albuquerque. With the help of Pat Garrett, Eaton found the man and two of his hirelings at the bar. Eaton ordered the killer to “fill your hand, you son of a b****!” shooting him twice through the heart as he reached for his gun under the bar. The two hirelings wounded Eaton, shooting him in the leg and in his left arm. Garrett helped Frank and saw to it he received help from friends out of town.
After seeing Eaton in an Armistice Day parade in 1923, students at Oklahoma A & M College, now Oklahoma State University, asked “Pistol Pete” to pose as the school’s mascot. Eaton agreed and became the “original cowboy” and living symbol of Oklahoma State University until his death.
His likeness was also adopted as the mascot of the University of Wyoming and New Mexico State University, which lead to a bit of a kerfuffle. It's also rumored that the cartoon character "Yosemite Sam" was modeled after him. I think ol' "Pistol Pete" would have been proud.
Tracy Garrett

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Book review: Sir Thomas and the Snow Troll by Lindsay Townsend


What nonsense is this!?  A winter book review in spring?  There really is logic to my madness.  Just read on.... ;)

My review on Sir Thomas and the Snow Troll:

I just recently finished reading the 2nd book in the Knight and the Witch series by Lindsay Townsend and had fallen in love with Magnus and his Elfrida.  When I mentioned my infatuation with the author and desire for more of their stories, I was delighted to discover that there was another story in the One Winter Knight anthology.  So I quickly found myself in the gorgeous heat of a spring day reading a winter story.  TOTALLY worth it!

Shortly after his father dies, Thomas' mother confesses the truth of his paternity, and in a mix of rage and confusion, Thomas sets off to meet his biological father.  Along the way, he runs into Ruth - almost literally - and discovers something even stronger to settle his tumultuous head and heart.

I adored Ruth's strength and attitude, and her willingness to grasp a hold of the goodness she found.  I loved Thomas's logic and drive - his sense of honor and ability to quickly claim what he needs and wants out of his life - in all aspects of family.

I loved the concept of soul-father vs biological father and how Magnus welcomed his "prodigal son or not" home.   Getting a little more time with Magnus and Elfrida and their gorgeous bond just made this little story all the more perfect for me.  And the way both immediately opened their arms to Thomas?  Be still my heart!

This is a terrific little addition to The Knight and the Witch series world.

If you want to experience Magnus and his Elfrida's stories, you can see my reviews and get purchase links here:

The Snow Bride
A Summer Bewitchment

One Winter Knight Blurb:

Hear ye, hear ye! Looking for medieval romance? Tales of knights and their ladies abound in ONE WINTER KNIGHT, a wonderful collection of medieval holiday novellas for your reading pleasure!

You’ll be held spellbound by this boxed set of captivating stories from some of today’s top medieval authors, as well as some rising stars in this up-and-coming genre. Lindsay Townsend, Deborah Macgillivray, Cynthia Breeding, Keena Kincaid, Cheryl Pierson, Beverly Wells, Patti Sherry-Crews, and Linda Carroll-Bradd have woven eight excellent Yuletide tales of love lost and found that are sure to keep you reading far into the night. Laced with holiday traditions and the excitement of a bold, dangerous era, Prairie Rose Publications is proud to offer yet another wonderful boxed set of medieval Christmas tales for your reading pleasure.

This collection of novellas makes a wonderful holiday gift for hours of entertaining reading—for others, or for yourself! These stories are certain to keep you enthralled as you read on to find out how these knights and ladies find their very own “happily-ever-after” endings ONE WINTER KNIGHT…

Purchase link:

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Strange Crimes of the 19th Century

Strange Crimes of the 19th Century

C. A. Asbrey

'The past is a foreign country. They do thing differently there.' The first line of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between wistfully distils the difference between received wisdom on the past and the harsh realities which we chose to forget. History provides us not only with continuity, but with a degree of certainty. We already know what happened, so it makes the vicissitudes easier to deal with. It's even simpler to rationalize if you only look at the version you like. The truth is that the past was generally a far more violent, and cruel place, than the present. Rapes were common, but not reported. Child abuse, of every imaginable kind, was routine. Crimes against the person were common if you were poor, abuse of power often went unchecked. Those living in small communities were more insulated against the worst of these, but terrible things went on behind closed doors while presenting a brave face to the world. Many acts we would describe as crimes today - sexual predation or domestic violence, were unprosecuted until well into the 19th century, and in some areas, there's still a fight to get them taken seriously. In the 19th century the sexual exploitation of ballerinas was simply the norm, and taken for granted. The Paris Opera Ballet was treated as an upper class brothel - for both genders, and was infamous throughout Europe. Actresses were considered women who were advertising their wares and fair game. Finding a sugar-daddy was seen as a protection from the rest of the abusers. Lack of opportunities for an alternative life saw people making the best of it, as much as they could. Women saved these ill-gotten-gains to buy a better life for their children, and to move up the social ladder. Bagging a rich man was good, but getting a royal was even better. If you could get pregnant by the right man you could be set for life. Alternatively, get pregnant by the wrong one and it was ruinous.

In small communities some action was taken against transgressors. The community could unite against those who went too far. In England a crowd beating pots and pans would surround a house in an act described as 'rough music'. That crowd would then deliver their own punishment before driving the miscreant out of town. This happened to very violent husbands, as well as those who stole from the community. The USA version of 'tar and feather' is a version of that rough justice, which came from Europe and the UK, but was often more political in nature. If a woman was lucky, her own family would deal with a violent husband - a phenomenon which was more common in the poor than the middle, or upper classes.       
It's not true that crime is worse now. Many are simply better reported. The Georgians barricaded their homes like fortresses, with even moderately wealthy families not trusting that security to the servants. Staff were often locked in at night. They weren't paranoid. It was a necessity, with thieves being recorded as even removing part of the roof to gain access, not to mention bribing servants. Once inside they could be merciless, using torture to get people to reveal the whereabouts of valuables. The old Scottish crimes of 'stouthrief' and 'hamesucken' relate to violence against homeowners and go back many centuries. The Victorian middle class demanded protection, leading to beat policing in cities which afforded protection to a small enclave, while the poorer parts were heaving seedbeds of want and crime.  A leveling of social inequality, and improvements for the poor, led to a reduction in crime, and people with more prospects were less ready to ruin their lives with a few petty thefts. Societal change brought a change in expectations from everyone, in the types of crimes committed, as well as how much protection people could expect from wrongdoers.

From the 18th century the emphasis fell on the victim, and their losses were central to the way courts felt about the act. It has to be remembered that some victims were considered less worthy than others. A poor woman beaten and robbed because she was walking home late, was less likely to be looked at sympathetically than a rich woman. In fact, the poor woman may even have been locked up and accused of prostitution, as in some places, women found out alone after dark were considered to be nothing else. It took a brave court action by a servant called Matilda Wade to challenge that. But the poor woman was more likely to have been stripped of everything she had, so proportionately speaking, it was a more serious crime.         

Actual crime figures are hard to come by, but can be estimated by court records, newspaper reports, and Judicial statistics. It's notable that a crime often wasn't recorded at all, if the two parties could come to terms, and reparation made. The line between civil law and criminal law was murky, to say the least. Violent crime did appear to fall from around the 1880s, partly due to policing changing the emphasis from catching people in the act, to detection, and tracking perpetrators down. It has risen again, but not to anywhere near the dog-eat-dog levels of the past. People can go out after dark in a way Jane Austin would never have dreamed of doing. We can travel in a level of safety which was unimaginable to our ancestors. It may not feel like it, but the world is actually safer for us.

I've always said that honesty, for many, is directly related to how likely they are to get caught, but I'm a cynical ex-cop. In my particular interest in historical crime though, it struck me that there are a few crimes which just don't happen anymore. Society has changed and these crimes help to tell us just how much. I thought it might be fun to look at some of the crimes which people in the 19th century lived with, but no longer happen. We should also remember that the crimes which are part-and-parcel for our epoch, such as vehicular crime and cyber crime, are just are uniquely of our time as the crimes we are about to look at now.


The resurrectionists were feared by people who believed their immortal souls were imperiled by the loss of their earthly body. Doctors, on the other hand, desperately needed cadavars to learn on, and despite being allowed the bodies of hanged felons, there just weren't enough to go around. That led to fresh graves being prime targets for those who could sell a human body to medical schools. The price varied on size and condition of the corpse. Obviously, a fresh one was better. One man, Charles Byrne, who had been a giant of eight feet tall, fetched the astronomical sum of £500 when he died in 1783. That equates to almost £76,000 - $93,252 today. A surgeon called John Hunter was obsessed with obtaining his body. Byrne has now been removed from display in the Hunterian Museum, and a campaign has been mounted for the man to be put to rest as he requested on his death bed - in the Irish Sea.

The average corpse in good condition brought in about 9 shillings and 11 pence in 1811. That equates to just less than half an old pound, but roughly £76 /$93.25 in today's money. That was a pretty good income at a time when the average annual wage for a laborer was around £20/$25.

Grave robbers would often pay women to attend funerals as mourners, who would feed back every detail of the burial - especially which end the head was. Their general  modus operandi was not to dig up the whole grave. They'd dig a pit at the head end and smash through the coffin with sharp shovels. The head would be lassoed, and the corpse dragged out of the small hole. Some of the failures were gruesome.

Burke and Hare were the famous murderers who decided to cut out the middle-man and went straight to creating their own corpses for sale. Call me a cynic, but I find it hard to believe they were they only ones to think of this. They sold their bodies for about £8 each - $9.82 - but they were as fresh as could be. Their demise came in Edinburgh being a relatively small town, and medical students started recognising some of the bodies, and raised the alarm.

The 'industry' collapsed when it was decided that the medical students could use unclaimed bodies. There was a ready supply of the poor who couldn't afford a funeral, so the supply and demand problem was sorted. The Anatomy Act allowed the medical schools to claim those bodies for dissection. Similar acts followed throughout the world and the trade in dead bodies ended. It's worth noting that a market for specific body parts thrived for a very long time after that, and that specific organs could be stolen to order by mortuary technicians well into the 20th century. The act made it illegal for organs to be removed and retained, but the demand for them did not diminish.

Fans investigating the murders of Jack the Ripper's victims could do well to remember that we cannot dismiss the possibility that some of The Rippers 'medical removal' of organs may not have been him at all, but might have been the mortuary attendants making a few bob on the side. After all, the first few murders were not initially seen as being particularly unusual, and murdered prostitutes were common, and their bodies generally unclaimed. The bodies were brought in at night, already cut, and the post mortem examination did not take place until the next day. Uteri were in particular demand, and some men even maintained huge collections of them. Not all these men were medically qualified either. Francis Tumblety, an American who is sometimes posited as a ripper suspect was a herbalist and quack doctor. He had an enormous collection of uteri which he liked to show off to visitors.


Skinner was the term for those who would tempt the unwary away from safety, most especially children, and strip them of all their clothes. For most people, their clothes were their most valuable possessions, as many didn't even have a 'Sunday Best'. Many only had what they stood up in - and that could be taken too. Children were not the only victims. Washerwomen could be set upon when carrying bundles of washing back to the owners. Note that in modern times they'd rob her after she'd been paid. In the past she'd be robbed for the laundry, which was far more valuable.

It was not unknown for people of all ages, and genders, to be found naked, or almost naked, after being robbed. It's also worth noting the overlap between this crime and the body snatchers. The bodies were never delivered to the doctors clothed. All grave clothes were removed and sold too.


Posing as an heir isn't just a literary trope. It was something which actually happened in the past. In the days before DNA, and other forensics, it was easier to pose as someone else. Some did it for a fresh start. The rest did it as a criminal venture. The best known incidence is the Tichbourne case.When Lady Titchbourne lost her son at sea, she put out documents all over the world looking for him. One Arthur Orton, a butcher's son, replied from Australia. He asked her to send money. which she did. She also asked him to come home. He thought he'd give it a go. The bereaved mother welcomed him with open arms despite being more than double her son's weight (see above), having only a basic education in comparison to the lost man's classical education, a working class accent, and looking nothing like the dead man whatsoever. The poor woman was obviously deluding herself to assuage her own grief. Other family members took the case to court. Lady Titchbourne died just before the case was heard, but he'd memorised a huge amount of detail around the dead man's life, and convinced 100 people to vouch for his identity. The case lasted 1,025 days. In 1874 he was convicted and sentenced to fourteen years hard labour. During his prison years, he insisted on being addressed as Lord Tichborne, and would not respond to the name Orton. 

It's worth noting that as a footnote, one of the most famous impersonations in modern times was solved when a gastric obstruction was stored, following an operation in 1979, from the woman claiming to be the missing Russian Princess Anastasia Romanov. The woman had been cremated, and this was the only tissue remaining. She had fooled many people throughout her life, but was rejected by even more. The DNA result was conclusive. She was not related to the Romanovs in any way.

Baby Farming 
Amelia Dyer

In the days before formal adoption, birth control, welfare, and child protection, baby farming was common. Not all of it was bad, but most of it was. Women who could not keep a child, but who had to work, had to do something. For many the answer was sending the child to a baby farmer. There were different kinds. Some would be paid regularly, and the child would be visited. Rich people used them for inconvenient children, such as a woman remarrying a man who didn't want to take on stepchildren. Others got a lump sum, and never expected to see the child again. In far too many cases nobody ever saw the child again. Some just allowed the child to wither and die, others took matters into their own hands and murdered the babies. Amelia Dyer (Right) was the most infamous, killing at least 400 children, although only few are legally attributed to her. She strangled the children with dressmaker's edging tape. When asked how the authorities could identify her victims, she said, "You’ll know mine by the tape around their necks."

She was not the only one by far.  Margaret Waters (executed 1870), Amelia Sach and Annie Walters (executed 1903). Despite baby farming being regulated in 1872 in the UK,  The last baby farmer to be executed in Britain was Rhoda Willis, who was hanged in 1907. It took longer in the USA, taking until the 1930s for informal adoptions to be ended. However, various charities took control by answering the adverts for babies to identify and prosecute where possible.

The carnage was ended by a mixture of an end to informal adoptions, and serious activism on the part of some very caring people.

Conspiring to have family members committed to an asylum or accused of witchcraft

Fans of Wilkie Collins', A Woman in White, published in 1859, will already be familiar with this trope. It's one I use myself in Innocent Minds, but it was all too common in the past. A good many people were committed to asylums for the sole crime of being inconvenient to the people around them. With no consensus as to what constituted insanity, and with diagnostic systems either in their infancy, or chaotic, people were committed who were not insane at all. Once inside, they had little hope of every getting out again.
William Stoughton

It was a good way to get control of their money, or to just dispose of a wife you no longer wanted. The previous method, accusing someone of witchcraft, did the same job, but had long lost its teeth for the purposes it had been previously used for. That was another crime which was out of fashion, and consigned to the past.  In almost all cases of witchcraft there had either been a history of animosity between the parties, or someone benefited from their wealth. The Salem witch trials are fascinating not just for the psychology of power, but also for the way a small group of men benefited financially by treading a careful line between English law and Massachusetts law - and not really following either, but by interpreting the bits which suited them. Scholars in the 18th century refer to papers no longer available to us, and make it clear that those running the trials were not as legally inexperienced, or inept, as conventional wisdom has told us. Chief Justice William Stoughton sat on the court which discharged the sheriff who seized lands from men not convicted. He was an expert, along with Joseph Dudley, at judicially clearing lands. Once seized by the crown for witchcraft, land would be sold. Stoughton and Dudley bought a lot of it. He also became one of the major landowners in the area, and became part of a partnership which eventually owned over a million acres. They eventually reached the highest levels of powers in New England. It's worth nothing that Dudley was infamous for his involvement in intrigues, attempts to overturn wills, and was accused of withholding customs money. Dudley negotiated multiple treaties and knew his way around both English law and the law of the province. While not sitting in the court, he was certainly connected to those intimately involved in it. Historian John Palfrey wrote that Dudley "united rich intellectual attributes with a groveling soul".

John Hodgeson
The girls who started that witch hysteria later admitted that they made it up, and repented. It was a way to get back at people they didn't like - strong independent women, the unusual, the eccentric, and their rivals in love. It would appear that opportunistic men then leaped on board too. Much the same happened with asylums. They were a convenient dumping ground for willful or disobedient women, the inconveniently pregnant, the unconventional, the unwanted, and the old who were taking too long to die.     

A young lady by the name of Edith Lanchaster from Roehampton had a very lucky escape when her father had her committed for daring to live with her lover out of wedlock in 1895. Her father had declared her action a 'social suicide' for the family. The asylum was inspected only two days after her committal, and she was found to be totally sane and released. Had it taken longer she would probably have been driven mad by circumstance. Many of these patients became so institutionalised it was impossible to release them, some who had been committed as young people were still in the system right up to the 1980s as very old people. 

Abuse, restraint, and drugging were commonplace. In 1869, John Hodgson, an attendant at the Lancaster Lunatic Asylum, along with another attendant killed a patient in their care who had only been admitted three days prior to his death. Both attendants swore they used no violence towards him but one patient witnessed the brutal beating and was able to give testimony that convicted both men of manslaughter. 
Forced feeding at an asylum


A wobble on the mattress jolted Sewell out of the arms of his dream-woman. He grunted and shifted under the covers, moving onto his other side. He suddenly felt a dead weight on top of him, an immobilizing, ponderous pressure which left him paralyzed and unable to move. Sewell gasped, sucking in a breath of a sweet, sickly miasma which filled his lungs as he took short pants of fear. His eyelids opened snapped open as the horror of his immobility climbed. He was pinned beneath his bedclothes, unable to move a limb, except for the feet which flailed and floundered beneath the tangling sheets.

He tried to cry out but found his impotent screams lost in the fabric jamming his mouth. He lay, pinned to the bed, rigid and immobilized as his eyes became accustomed to the darkness and a figure loomed into view. Sewell’s heart stilled at the sight of a hideous crone looming over him, her wild white hair standing straight out from her head in a tangled mass in every direction. Her lips curled back in disdain around a mouth which appeared to be laughing, but not a sound was to be heard. The hag’s eyes were in shadow, lending her the appearance of a screaming skull floating above him. She sat on his chest, rendering him unable to scream, or even move as the smell filled his nostrils. It felt like powerful arms and legs kept him pinned down. What kind of nightmare was this?

The gorgon pressed close, so close he could feel the heat of her breath on his face. All he could do was blink and tremble, too stupefied to move. It seemed like the longest time before the blackness crept in, and his eyelids dropped closed once more. The nightmare didn’t leave, it took him; engulfing him entirely until he felt nothing.

Dawn crept in by inches, the dark transitioning from black to gray, until the low morning sunshine added a warming brightness to the scene. The shadows were as long as the sunbeams were cleansing, chasing down the retreating darkness to a mere frown until the morning smiled on another new day. The sun’s confidence grew, climbing higher in the sky, proud of the majestic light which gave life and succor to the whole planet—well, not all of it. Sewell Josephson never saw another day. That day saw him though, swinging gently by the creaking rope fixed to the newel post at the turn of the staircase on the top landing. The ligature bit into the neck below the engorged face from which a purple tongue protruded from his dead gaping mouth.

The only life in the house stared at the figure with unblinking black eyes and a twitching tail. The cat turned her head at the sound of a key in the back door. A human at last. Maybe the cook would know what do to?

        Kindle Link        Trade Paperback Link