By Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)
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Additional resources for A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present
In many instances, the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defence lawyers was deficient, dubious and uncorroborated. 21 In sum, there was seemingly a disjuncture between contemporary disquiet about the frequency and nature of the crime of infanticide on the one hand and the judicial reality of how accused women might be treated on the other. All of these four elements were certainly evident in the indictment brought against Ann Price in 1681. Yet, only upon closer inspection of the evidence will we find how typical were these traits across Britain and Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
83 This resulted in various attempts to make the legislation more malleable through the permissibility of certain defences which could work to strongly undermine the initial charge laid. 84 In addition, the intended targets of the legislation, lewd women, were rarely indicted for the offence. Rather, it was far more common for women of a good character to be charged with new-born child murder, as they were more likely to have solid reputations to maintain. Thus the avoidance of opprobrium to maintain decency was (as we will see) a strong contributory factor in episodes of infanticide, and the authorities became uncertain about the extent to which this kind of behaviour should be punished.
105 In essence, there were two key reasons for this. The first relates to the potential wage earnings available from this type of employment. A. Kent shows that the earnings of young, single servant girls were better than many other female occupations at that time. 107 These working conditions were considered highly favourable by early modern women. 111 The provision of a cash wage for domestic servants gave women a degree of independence in the early modern period, and therein lies the other key attraction of this type of employment.
A History of Infanticide in Britain c. 1600 to the Present by Anne-Marie Kilday (auth.)