Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 October 2008
‘How came I to be his property? What right has he in me, but such as a thief may plead to stolen goods?’ cried Pamela, the virtuous servant maid of Richardson's novel. Pamela was written in 1740, but the assumption that masters had sexual rights over their servants cast a long shadow. The questions Pamela raises about powerlessness and ‘worth’ are crucial to understanding the plight of female servants in the nineteenth century. This study examines why servants were particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the consequences of sexual abuse for victims and offenders, and underlying male attitudes which affected both the incidence of assaults and the justice meted out by the courts.
3. According to the Registrar General's figures, the rural areas of west Wales, especially Cardiganshire, had the highest ratio of illegitimate births in England and Wales, throughout the nineteenth century. See Davies, Russell, ‘In a broken dream: Some aspects of sexual behaviour and the dilemmas of the unmarried mother in south-west Wales, 1887–1914’, Llafur 3 (1983), 25Google Scholar; Henriques, U. R. Q., ‘Bastardy and the new Poor Law’, Past and Present 37 (1967), 122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar In 1845 the Chairman of the Cardiganshire Quarter Sessions called the jury's attention to the large number of inquests on children, Carmarthen Journal (11th April, 1845).
4. I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for funding research on the Llidiardau collection at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
5. In Cardiganshire 76% of working women were employed as servants compared to 66% in Glamorganshire, where industry provided an alternative. Census of Great Britain 1841: Abstract of the Answers and Returns, Occupation Abstract Part I (London, 1844).
6. See Stone, Lawrence, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800 (London, 1977), p. 646.Google Scholar
7. Carmarthen Journal (19th October, 1866).
8. Some servants were even treated like slaves, receiving no wages for months or even years. See Jones, D.J.V., Crime in Nineteenth-Century Wales (Cardiff, 1992), p. 159.Google Scholar
9. National Library of Wales, Llidiardau MS. 9/4/7.
10. Fairchilds, Cissie, ‘Female sexual attitudes and the rise of illegitimacy: A case study’, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 8 (1978), 639.Google Scholar
11. Census of Great Britain 1841. Abstract of the Answers and Returns: Occupation Abstract Part I(London, 1844).
12. Henriques, , ‘Bastardy and the new poor law’, pp. 114, 119.Google Scholar This was raised to 13 in 1844 but many children received no maintenance payments, the burden for supporting them falling on impoverished mothers or reluctant stepfathers.
13. NLW, Llidiardau 3/5/10.
14. Carmarthen Journal (8th February, 1867).
15. Anna Clark found that 31% of rapes on servants were carried out by fellow servants; Clark, , Women's Silence, Men's Violence, p. 107.Google Scholar
16. NLW, Llidiardau 9/4/38.
17. Mary Jones was minding the cattle at Tanygarreg, Blaenpennal, where the land of neighbouring farmers consisted of intermingled strips, when she was physically assaulted; NLW, Llidiardau 9/2/81.
18. NLW, Llidiardau 3/5/10.
19. Monmouthshire Merlin (29th August, 1829).
21. Laslett, Peter, Oosterveen, Karla and Smith, Richard M. (eds.), Bastardy and its Comparative History (London, 1980), p. 230.Google Scholar
22. NLW, Llidiardau 3/8/21.
23. Carmarthen Weekly Reporter (29th October 1909).
25. Howell, D.W. and Baber, C., ‘Wales’, in Thompson, F.M.L. (ed.), The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750–1950, 1 (Cambridge, 1990), 291.Google Scholar This custom was limited to the ‘Welsh’ areas of Wales, not practised in the lowlands of the south. See also Henriques, , ‘Bastardy and the new poor law’, p. 123.Google Scholar
29. Carmarthen Journal (26th March 1841).
30. Ashby, M.K., Joseph Ashby of Tysoe 1859–1919: A Study of English Village Life (London, 1974), p. 2.Google Scholar
32. NLW, Llidiardau 9/2/81.
35. NLW, Llidiardau 9/2/26.
36. Robin, Jean, ‘Illegitimacy in Colyton, 1851–1881’, Continuity and Change 2 (1987), 307–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar See also Robin, Jean, ‘Prenuptial pregnancy in a rural area of Devonshire in the midnineteenth century: Colyton, 1851–1881’, Continuity and Change 1 (1986), 113–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
37. NLW, Llidiardau 9/4/3, 3/1/27.
38. NLW, Llidiardau 3/1/21, 23. This abuse was ended by the Poor Law of 1834 which stated that the baby's place of settlement should be the mother's parish, not its place of birth. See the excellent article by Henriques, , ‘Bastardy and the new poor law’, pp. 103–29.Google Scholar
40. Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales: Minutes of Evidence (London, 1844), p. 177.
42. See Henriques, , ‘Bastardy and the new poor law’, pp. 118, 127.Google Scholar She suggests that the situation was worse in Wales because the bastardy clauses upset the delicate social balance of ‘concession’ preceding early marriage among country girls.
43. See, for example, the ballad of the virtuous, but sophisticated, servant maid who married an alderman, Henriques, , ‘Bastardy and the new poor law’, pp. 127–8.Google Scholar
44. NLW, Llidiardau 14/2/12. There was a gentry family of this name at Ynysmaengwyn, Towyn.
45. Davies, , ‘In a broken dream’, p. 28Google Scholar. Gillis, , ‘Servants, sexual relations and the risks of illegitimacy’, p. 156Google Scholar, says that before 1860 many servants attempted to end pregnancy by abortion. There is no evidence to suggest that it was any less common after this date.
48. Carmarthen Journal (19th July, 1867).
50. Carmarthen Journal (5th March, 1852).
53. For her story see Green, The Morning of Her Day.
54. Carmarthen Journal (19th July, 1867).
55. Carmarthen Journal (4th April, 1845); The Welshman (March 1845).
56. Carmarthen Journal (5th March, 1852).
57. See for example the minute book of G.W. Parry, Chairman of the Cardiganshire Quarter Sessions 1857–70, which contains his rough notes of the cases which came before the court during that period, NLW, Llidiardau 3/14.
58. Jones, , Crime in Nineteenth-Century Wales, p. 79Google Scholar found that the largest gap between incidence and prosecution occurred in crimes of sexual assault.
59. Douglas Hay, ‘Prosecution and power: Malicious prosecution in the English courts, 1750– 1850’, in Hay, Douglas and Snyder, Francis (eds.), Policing and Prosecution in Britain 1750–1850 (Oxford, 1989), p. 377.Google Scholar Hay estimates that over 80% of men accused of raping women were acquitted, and slightly less of those accused of raping children. Jones, , Crime in Nineteenth-Century Wales, p. 80Google Scholar, gives a more conservative figure, estimating that at least 50% of those accused of rape were acquitted.
60. Monmouthshire Merlin (29th August, 1829).
61. NWL, Llidiardau 3/14. SirHale, Mathew, The History of the Pleas of the Crown 1 (London, 1736), 635–6.Google Scholar
62. Carmarthen Journal (5th August, 1831).
63. Carmarthen Journal (8th February, 1867).
64. NWL, Llidiardau 9/4/36–8; 9/2/84–6; Carmarthen Journal (19th March, 1852).
65. Carmarthen Weekly Reporter (25th July, 1905).
67. NLW, Llidiardau 9/4/37.
68. Carmarthen Journal (5th August, 1831).
69. Carmarthen Journal (19th October, 1866).
72. NLW, Llidiardau 9/4/37.
74. It is thought that Mary Morgan's seducer was a member of the jury that found her guilty at the Court of Great Sessions in 1805.
75. Carmarthen Journal (8th January, 1841).
76. Carmarthen Journal (26th September, 1845).
78. NLW, Llidiardau 3/14.
79. Carmarthen Journal (19th October, 1866).
80. NLW, Llidiardau 8/2/3.
82. Carmarthen Journal (8th January, 1841).
83. NLW, Llidiardau 9/4/37.
85. Carmarthen Journal (8th February, 1867).
86. NLW, D.T.M. Jones MS. 5287. The ‘ceffyl pren’ or wooden horse, was used to correct matrimonial infidelity, but unpopular bailiffs became common targets. See Jones, R.A.N., ‘Popular culture, policing and the disappearance of the ceffyl pren in Cardigan c. 1837–1850, Ceredigion 11 (1988–1989), 19–40.Google Scholar
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