Taking The Trade: Abortion And Gender Relations In An Eighteenth Century New England Village

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Cornelia Hughes Dayton utilizes, as Hemphill does, a primarily legal based methodology in her article “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth Century New England Village. Examining a variety of depositions and legal documents surrounding a fornication trial in Pomfret, Connecticut, Dayton argues two major fundamental shifts occurred by the 1740s which highlighted how different their society was from that of the Puritan dominated seventeenth century. First, there was a loss of institutional control, both in the ability of the courts to obtain guilty verdicts in cases of moral depravity, e.g., pre-marital sex, and the growing tendancy for families to avoid the court system altogether, choosing instead to handle such matters privately. (Dayton Abortion, 34-35)
The second major change which began around the turn of the eighteenth century and was firmly established by the time of the Grosvenor-Sessions case was the emergence of a sexual double standard. This was particularly noticeable in fornication cases of pregnant single women. By the 1740s courts no longer viewed a woman’s testimony on paternity as sufficient to convict the father, essentially making
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There are two reasons for this diverging scholarship; first, the time periods being written about only marginally line up, if at all. While Koehler and Hemphill focus on the seventeenth century, Dayton’s “Taking the Trade” article examines the eighteenth century, with the other three works occupying various times encompassing sections of both centuries. For a topic where change over a relatively short period of time is highlighted in all but Koehler’s work, minimal differences in settings can have dramatic effects on

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