Harlots, Hussies, and Poor Unfortunate Women: Crime, Transportation, and the Servitude of Female Convicts, 1718-1783 - Edith M. Ziegler, Sally Martin

Disclaimer: “I was provided this audio book at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via AudiobookBlast.com”

 

          There is a tendency in America to forget about certain key aspects of our history.  No, I am not just talking about those people who forget what the Confederate Flag stands for, but I am also talking about the history pre-Independence.  At times, it seems as if Americans think the only country made up of transported criminals is Australia.  They forget that criminals were transported here, to a lesser degree and under slightly different circumstances, but brought here against their will, with more hope than those take in the African slave trade.

 

          Ziegler’s book is an attempt to put this to rights.  It’s true that her book isn’t the first to focus on the topic, and her introduction points out several books that the reader can track down for more general information.  The focus of the book, however, is on the women who were sentenced to labor in the Colonies, in particular Maryland, for a span of 7-14 years depending on the verdict.

 

          What this means is a woman found guilty of a crime (usually it seems, though not always, robbery) would be transported to the colonies from England, where her contact (her labor) would be brought be a colonist.  After the term was over, she could return home or wherever.  If she got pregnant while under penalty, additional time was added as it was if she escaped.  Such women would be put to work in the fields or the house, sometimes working side by side with slaves.  Sometimes the women gave birth to children whose fathers were slaves (and what happened to these children seems to be all about original sin).

 

          Because of the subject, there isn’t one single strand or story to follow.  What Ziegler does instead is far more comprehensive.  She starts with the situations that might have lead women to not only to be in court but also how the system worked (for instance, the time spent in jail waiting for transport to the colonies was not counted as part of the sentence).  She compares various sentences.  Then there is a discussion about transportation and arrival as well as about the work that the women were given.  Ziegler then discusses escape.

 

          Perhaps the most heartbreaking part is the section on what happens after the women served their sentences and, in some cases, returned home to families that were grown or husbands that had moved on (just as their male counterparts returned to wives that had moved on).  In some cases, the women stayed in the colonies, sometimes due to children, sometimes not.

 

          Overall, while detailing a variety of information and various stories, the book flows well and the writing is engaging.

 

          Sally Martin’s reading reminds one of Wanda McCaddon.  Martin’s voice is a perfect match to the subject matter.  While some of the stories will make the reader and/or listener want to smack someone, Martin does not let anger or another overwhelmingly emotion into her reading.  This enables the reader to actual take in the information.  It really is a reading and not a lecture.