December 6th, 2008 Headsman
On this date in 1683, Dorothy Talby was hanged in Boston for breaking the neck of her baby daughter (aptly named “Difficulty”) “in order to save the child from future misery.”
Though not the first execution of a woman in the territory of the future United States, it is the first that is reasonably well-documented … and for a disturbed, possibly insane, woman striking out against her troubled family life, a case that resonated for later Americans like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Oliver Wendell Holmes.
For those of us, post-Andrea Yates, for whom “post-partum depression” has become a sadly familiar term of criminology, it is likely to resonate as well.
Mrs. Talby was esteemed for godliness, etc., but after the birth of the child she became melancholy and possessed of delusions. She sometimes tried to kill herself and her husband by refusing to eat “meat” and not permitting them to eat it, saying it had been so revealed to her. (Source)
Take a break from the Headsman’s noodlings and instead enjoy the thoughtful treatment given Talby’s case by crime blogger extraordinaire Laura James.
Also on this date
- 1985: Carroll Edward Cole
- 1938: Martha Marek, Zeliopaster
- 2006: A father-daughter drug smuggling team
- 1769: Two weavers, for the Spitalfield riots
- 1209: The Oxford clerks
- 1823: Dr. Edme Castaing, the first to kill with morphine
- 41 B.C.E.: Arsinoe IV, Cleopatra's sister
Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Abortion and Infanticide,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,England,Execution,Hanged,Massachusetts,Milestones,Murder,Public Executions,USA,Women