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The Newgate Calendar - BARBARA SPENCER


Executed at Tyburn on the 5th of July, 1721, for Coining. She was probably the first Woman to suffer the Death Penalty for what was regarded as Treason

 BARBARA SPENCER was born in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, and when young proved to be of a violent temper. At length her mother, finding her quite unmanageable at home, put her apprentice to a mantua-maker, who, having known her from a child, treated her with great kindness.

 Barbara had served about two years, when on a dispute with her mistress she went home to her mother, with whom she had not long resided before she insisted on having a maid kept, to which the old woman consented, A quarrel soon happening between Barbara and the maid, the mother interposed; on which the daughter left her for a time, but soon returned again.

 Not long after this it happened that some malefactors were to be executed at Tyburn, and Barbara insisted on going to see the execution. This was prudently opposed by her mother, who, struggling to keep her at home, struck her; but the daughter, getting out of the house, went to a female acquaintance, who accompanied her to Tyburn, and thence to a house near St Giles's Pound, where Barbara made a vow that she would never again return to her mother. In this fatal resolution she was encouraged by the company present, who persuaded her to believe that she might live in an easy manner if she would but follow their way of life. To this she readily agreed; and as they were coiners, they employed her in uttering counterfeit money, for which she was detected, tried, fined and imprisoned.

 Not taking warning by what had happened, she returned to her old connections, commenced coiner herself, and was at length convicted of the crime for which she suffered. While under sentence of death she behaved in the most indecent and turbulent manner; nor could she be convinced that she had been guilty of any crime in making a few shillings. She was for some time very impatient under the idea of her approaching dissolution, and was particularly shocked at the thought of being burned; but at the place of execution she seemed willing to exercise herself in devotion, but was much interrupted by the mob throwing stones and dirt at her.

 She was strangled and burned, and was probably the first woman to suffer this punishment for coining, which was then regarded as a treason.

 The unhappy fate of this woman seems to have been occasioned by the violence of her temper, and a want of duty to her mother. Hence let all young people learn to keep their passions in subjection, and to remember the injunction in the fifth commandment; 'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee:' for surely no crime is more likely to lead to destruction than that of disobedience to parents. It is the inlet to every other vice, and the source of a thousand calamities.

Let children that would fear the Lord
Hear what their teachers say;
'With rev'rence meet their parents word,
And with delight obey.

For those who worship God, and give
Their parents honour due,
Here on this earth they long shall live,
And live hereafter too.

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