WOMEN OF HASTINGS & ST LEONARDS


WOMEN'S STATUS

The Hastings & St Leonards News


TOWN HALL, THURSDAY, MAY 3, 1851
Before P.F. MacCabe, J. Mannington and F. Smith, Esqrs.

FELONY.- Rebecca White, a young woman very cleanly dressed, about 17 years of age, was placed in the dock, charged with stealing, in the parish of St. Mary in the Castle, one pair of cotton stockings value 1s., and one lawn handkerchief, the property of Edward Nash.

Prisoner's father is a fisherman, at present at sea, and the mother an attendant on the bathing machines. Esther Nash sworn - Am the wife of Edward Nash. I let a lodging house, No. 6 Beach cottages: about a fortnight ago I missed a pair of stockings, and lawn handkerchief, some curls, and a pair of front combs. I missed the stockings from a drawer in the parlour. The combs were two small front ones. The handkerchief was clean in the same drawer. Prisoner has been eight or nine weeks in my service.



The document above provides some useful unwitting testimony about women's lives and status in the 1850s.

The stolen goods clearly belonged to Esther Nash: they were women's accessories. Although Mr Nash was not involved, nor did he appear in court, he is named as the victim of the theft, because a wife could not own property. She was not, therefore, able to prosecute when robbed.

It is notable that all three women mentioned - two married and one single - are in employment: a servant, a lodging house keeper and a bathing machine attendant.


BOROUGH BENCH, Wednesday October 17, 1849.
Before F. Ticehurst and R. Ranking, Esqrs.

John Storey, was charged with a gross assault [i.e rape] upon the wife of Mr. Frederick Whyborn.

The defendent is a servant in the employ of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, and keeps the gate on the Sluice-road, near Pevensey. The offence was committed in a railway carriage last Monday, as the train was travelling from Polegate to Pevensey. There was no one in the carriage but the defendent and Mrs. Whyborn.

The defendant was convicted in a penalty of £1, with costs 17s 6d.



In the case above, the woman - whose first name is not even given - was unable to prosecute the man in her own name. As a wife she had no legal existence and so the prosecution was made by Mr. Whyborn in respect of damage to his property - i.e. his wife. This arrangement meant of course that it was up to the husband whether or not to prosecute.

It is notable that, although found guilty of the offence, Storey received no custodial sentence, but merely a fine.


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