SUMMER STREVENS    Book Number: 90349    Product format: Paperback

Subtitled 'The Life and Death of Mary Channing', we learn that in 1706 the 19 year old Mary was convicted of poisoning her husband. She became the last woman to be burned at the stake in Dorset. Despite her impressive attempts to defend herself, the jury had take only half an hour to find her guilty, yet on the pronouncement of her death sentence, Mary 'pleaded her belly' and thus postponed her execution until after she had given birth to her child in gaol. When the day finally arrived, Mary's execution was made into something of a county fair, with 10,000 spectators gathering to view the barbaric ordeal upon the floor of Dorchester's ancient Roman amphitheatre, Maumbury Rings. Although the law extended an act of clemency allowing for Mary to be strangled to death before the fires were lit, there is evidence to suggest that she was in fact still alive when consigned to the flames. After the gory spectacle was complete it was said 'Not one of those ten thousand people ever cared particularly for hot roast after that.' More than 300 years after, Thomas Hardy recorded some of the grislier details of Mary's execution in his notebooks and used her for the inspiration of his poem 'The Mock Wife'. Yet while Mary Channing has been granted a kind of grim celebrity, as well as an established place in the annals of female murderers, a measure of compelling sympathy for her case is nonetheless another lasting aspect of her legacy. Her sentencing and execution brings into focus the prevalent societal impact of the subordination of women in the 18th century. If the colourful accounts of Mary's life are to be believed, she was certainly what we would term today 'a tearaway teenager' and she certainly provided much for the gossips of Dorchester to capitalise on, titillating the inhabitants of a town long since renowned for its sober, godly and puritanical leanings. After all, 'well-behaved women seldom make history'. 117 page softback, illus.
Published price: £12.99
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Additional product information

ISBN 9781473898721
Browse these categories as well: Crime, Historical Biography, History

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