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The Newgate Calendar - MARY HAMILTON


A Woman who was imprisoned and whipped for marrying Fourteen Women, 1746

POLYGAMY, or a man marrying two or more wives -- and, vice versa, a woman marrying two or more husbands -- is a crime frequently committed; but a woman marrying a woman according to the rites of the Established Church is something strange and unnatural. Yet did this woman, under the outward garb of a man, marry fourteen of her own sex!

At the Quarter Sessions held at Taunton, in Somersetshire, this woman was brought before the Court; but under what specific charge, or upon what penal statute she was indicted, we can neither trace by the mention of the circumstance, nor could we frame an indictment to meet the gross offence, because the law never contemplated a marriage among women. She was, however, tried, whether or not her case might have been cognisable, and Mary Price, the fourteenth wife, appeared in evidence (in such a case as this we must be pardoned for ambiguity) against her female husband.

She swore that she was lawfully married to the prisoner, and that they bedded and lived together as man and wife for more than a quarter of a year; during all which time, so well did the impostor assume the character of man, she still actually believed she had married a fellow-creature of the right and proper sex.

The learned quorum of justices thus delivered their verdict: "That the he or she prisoner at the bar is an uncommon, notorious cheat, and we, the Court, do sentence her, or him, whichever he or she may be, to be imprisoned six months, and during that time to be whipped in the towns of Taunton, Glastonbury, Wells and Shepton Mallet, and to find security for good behaviour as long as they, the learned justices aforesaid, shall or may, in their wisdom and judgment, require." And Mary, the monopoliser of her own sex, was imprisoned and whipped accordingly, in the severity of the winter of the year 1746.


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