Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2009
While both women experienced forms of marital violence, the ways in which Rachael Norcott in 1666 and Mary Veitch in 1837 described what they had endured were very different. According to Rachael's witnesses, her husband knocked her senseless on the head when she was pregnant, threw a large hammer at her leg so that her ankle nearly broke, struck her with a candlestick and was only narrowly prevented from hitting her with a fire fork, threw her on the floor and dragged her by the arms about the house. John Norcott also repeatedly ‘scolded and railed’ at his wife, calling her a whore, and he refused to support her financially, giving Rachael no money for food or clothes for at least eight or nine months. Rachael's body was testimony to what she had suffered: her ankle had a permanent scar from her husband's attack that was ‘somewhat bigger than half a crown’, her wound from being hit with the candlestick could still be seen on her temple, and immediately following each violent incident many witnesses could recall seeing blood and then the black and blue signs of bruising.
James Veitch was also accused of failing to provide Mary with money ‘to purchase clothing and other necessaries’. He swore and verbally abused her, threw the contents of the slop basin from their tea over her and once struck her on the face. But the cruelty that was alleged in this marriage consisted more of threats than physical blows.