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Virtually every aspect of English life between and was influenced by gender, and this includes behaviour documented in the Old Bailey Proceedings. Long-held views about the particular strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate responsibilities of each sex shaped everyday lives, patterns of crime, and responses to crime. This provides an introduction to gender roles in this period; a discussion of how they affected crime, justice, and punishment; and advice on how to analyse the Proceedings for information about gender.
In the twenty-first century western world, the idea that women and men naturally possess distinct characteristics is often treated sceptically, but this was an almost universally held view in the eighteenth century. Ideas about gender difference were derived from classical thought, Christian ideology, and contemporary science and medicine. Men and women were thought to inhabit bodies with different physical make-ups and to possess fundamentally different qualities and virtues. Men, as the stronger sex, were thought to be intelligent, courageous, and determined.
Women, on the other hand, were more governed by their emotions, and their virtues were expected to be chastity, modesty, compassion, and piety. Men were thought to be more aggressive; women more passive. These differences were echoed in the faults to which each sex was thought to be prone. Men were prone to 19 looking for woman 1840, obstinacy, and selfishness, while women's sins were viewed as the result of their tendency to be ruled by their bodies and their emotions, notably lust, excessive passion, shrewishness, and laziness. Expectations of male and female conduct derived from these perceived virtues and weaknesses.
In marriage, men were expected to rule over their wives, and all property except in some cases property acquired by the woman before marriage belonged to the husband. Men were the primary wage earners, while women were expected to be primarily responsible for housework and childcare, though both sexes participated in all these activities. Women's paid employment was typically low status, low paid, and involved fewer skills and responsibilities than men's. The types of work available to women were confined to a few sectors of the economy where the work could be seen as an extension of women's domestic responsibilities, such as domestic service, the clothing trades, teaching, and nursing.
In politics, women possessed virtually no formal rights, though they could exercise influence informally. Beyond employment, women's public roles were generally confined to the exercise of their moral and domestic virtues through participation in religion and charity. However, one should not exaggerate the differences between the sexes, since there were a of activities, both public and private, engaged in by both.
Particularly among the poor, men and women were forced to do whatever was necessary in order to survive, both in unpaid work such as housework and childcare, and in employment for financial gain such as street selling pictured and some aspects of weaving. There were a few opportunities to step outside accepted gender roles.
Both men and women occasionally dressed in the clothes of the opposite sex to participate in masquerades, and women occasionally dressed as men in order to gain access to opportunities such as military service otherwise denied to their sex. Within London's homosexual subculturemen sometimes cross-dressed as women and adopted effeminate characteristics.
The growing influence of evangelical ideology placed an increasing moral value on female domesticity, virtue, and religiosity. It is argued that increasingly public life and work was confined to men, while women were expected to stay at home. Recently historians have begun to question some aspects of this story, pointing out that these ideas of gender difference were for the most part very old, and that women were not excluded from work and public life in the nineteenth century. Women were excluded from some occupations and activities, but they entered new ones, for example authorship, teaching, and charity work.
Towards the end of the century new jobs outside the home became available, and many women became clerks, typists, and shop assistants. Consequently, women were frequently expected to give up their jobs when they got married. With the development of empire and a new wave of prosecutions of homosexuals in the s, men were increasingly expected to demonstrate the masculine traits of muscle, might, and sexual attraction to women, combined with chivalrous concern for the weaker sex.
As the Proceedings indicate, both men and women were present in many aspects of public and private life. Fromthe suffrage movement campaigned to get women the vote, which had been given to property-owning men by the Reform Act, and was extended to working-class men in and During this campaign arguments for the female vote developed into critiques of the ideology of separate spheres and the understandings of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality on which it was based.
Fromfrustrated at the lack of progress, the suffrage campaign turned militant. Some of those arrested were tried at the Old Bailey: see the trials of Emily Davison in and Emmeline Pankhurst in and Some of those imprisoned including Pankhurst went on hunger strikes. World War I intervened, but women over the age of 30 were finally given the vote in In every study of serious crime ever conducted, men's and women's criminality has appeared different.
Women are always accused of fewer, and different, crimes from men, and this was also true at the Old Bailey. By this point serious crime had come to be perceived as essentially a masculine problem. Increasingly, female deviance was perceived as a consequence and aspect of sexual immorality rather than crime, 19 looking for woman 1840 was addressed through other agencies of protection and control. Throughout the period, female defendants in the Proceedings for a ificant proportion of the accused in only a small of offences, particularly certain kinds of theft pickpocketing, shoplifting, theft from lodging houses, theft from masters, and receiving stolen goods and coining, kidnapping, keeping a brothel, and offences surrounding childbirth.
On the other hand, relatively few women were accused of deception, other sexual offences, breaking the peace, and robbery. The explanation of these patterns is complicated. Certain offences were legally or practically sex-specific: only men could be guilty of rape 19 looking for woman 1840 women could be accessories and except in very rare circumstances of sodomywhile women were most likely to be accused of infanticideconcealing a birthand unlawful abortion.
Although prostitution itself was not tried at the Old Bailey, keeping a brothel was, and women for about a third of those prosecuted. Beyond this, there are two sets of explanations for the gendered pattern of prosecutions at the Old Bailey: different attitudes towards male and female criminality; and different patterns of crime actually committed, owing to contrasts in the lives led by women and men. According to their prescribed gender rolemen were expected to be violent and aggressive, and consequently male deviance was perceived to be more threatening, was more likely to be interpreted as crime, and was more likely to be prosecuted.
Because women were generally perceived to be more passive, they were not thought to be prone to criminality, and therefore the crimes they did commit were seen as unusual, rather than as part of a general pattern. At this time only a small fraction of crimes were actually prosecuted, and the less threatening crimes were least likely to be formally prosecuted. Although women who stepped far outside expected gender roles through the use violence towards children, for example were prosecuted severely, most crimes committed by women were likely to be dealt with by less formal judicial procedures, such as informal arbitration and summary prosecution, or at the Quarter Sessions courts, and such cases do not appear in the Old Bailey records.
A second explanation for the appearance of fewer women at the Old Bailey, and their being charged with different types of crime, is that women may have actually committed fewer and different crimes than men because of the nature of their lives. Women, for example, were less likely to carry weapons or tools, or to spend time in alehouses, so they were less likely to become involved in spontaneous fights, and when they did they rarely had a lethal weapon to hand.
Since they spent more time in the home they may have had fewer opportunities to commit crime, particularly temptations to steal. On the other hand, women were never confined to their own homes and most had plenty of opportunities to commit theft. It is certainly likely that male and female patterns of theft differed, owing to the different types of work and leisure engaged in by each sex. Thus prostitutes stole from their clients and were accused of pickpocketing; female servants stole from their masters; and female customers, possibly motivated by desires to keep up with the latest fashions, stole from shops.
In addition, women's participation in trading networks gave them skills suitable for buying and selling stolen goods. On the other hand, men were far more likely to be involved in thefts from places of work such as ships, warehouses, docks, and places of manufacture; and, in rural areas, thefts of livestock. Overall, women did for a ificant proportion of theft prosecutions, particularly early in the period, and this can be related to the ificant economic hardships women encountered in London, particularly young recent migrants.
New immigrants to the metropolis were often cut off from networks of support such as family and friends, and women's wages were typically ificantly lower than men's, and their jobs less secure. Historians disagree about the cause and ificance of the major decline in the proportion of female defendants tried at the Old Bailey between the early eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In contrast, Peter King argues that the decline in both the and proportion of women tried at the Old Bailey was not linear, reflected ificant fluctuations in the of men prosecuted in times of war and peace, and was not mirrored in the records of other English courts.
Perhaps most importantly, he notes that the late nineteenth-century decline in the of women prosecuted reflected jurisdictional changes, as a large of minor theft cases which frequently involved women were transferred to the lower courts. Ultimately, it is dangerous to draw wider conclusions about gender directly from evidence of the of offenders prosecuted in a single court. Appearing as a defendant at the Old Bailey must have been a ificantly more intimidating experience for women than it was for men.
There is some evidence that juries treated evidence presented by female witnesses more sceptically than that delivered by men and female testimony was more likely to be omitted from the Proceedings. At the same time, other evidence suggests that juries may have been more reluctant to convict women since, as explained in gender and crimefemale crime was generally perceived as less threatening than that committed by men. The legal principle of the feme covertby which women could not be held responsible for crimes committed in the presence of their husbands since they were pd to be following their husbands' commands was not often applied, but it may have led juries to exonerate some married women, particularly when their husbands were convicted for the same crime.
Only about a seventh of the victims or prosecutors of crime at the Old Bailey were women. The most important reason for this is the fact that theft was the most common offence prosecuted, and most marital property was deemed to be in the possession of the husband. Thus, even if a woman's clothes were stolen, if she was married her husband would have been labelled as the victim of the crime.
It is also possible, however, that women on their own were reluctant to prosecute cases in the male-dominated environment of the Old Bailey courtroom. Women for a higher proportion of the victims who used less formal legal procedures such as summary jurisdiction and informal arbitration to prosecute crimes.
The pattern of punishments for convicted women was ificantly different from that for men, though when punishments for the same offence are compared the differences are not so great. There are some legal reasons for these differences, many of which reflect ideas about gender at the time:. The ideas behind these differences--women's unsuitability for hard outdoor labour and military service, concerns for their children, and the growing reluctance to punish women physically in public--also shaped punishment patterns more generally.
Owing to the desire to populate the colonies with those capable of building up their economies, for example, many fewer women were selected for transportation than men, especially after when transportation to Australia began. In addition, women were much less likely than men to be sentenced to death, public whipping or the pillory no women were sentenced to the pillory aftersometimes even when convicted of the same offences. Sentencing decisions were no doubt influenced by the ever present perception that female criminality was less threatening than male criminality, in part because it was committed less frequently.
Since one of the main purposes of punishment in this period was thought to be deterring others from engaging in crime, punishing women served a less useful purpose than punishing men. But in certain circumstances female criminals appeared more threatening than men, and the court punished them accordingly.
By the early nineteenth century, as serious crime came to be "masculinized", most crime committed by women was seen as essentially a sexual rather than a criminal form of deviance, and those few women who were identified as serious criminals were sometimes punished more harshly than men.
In effect, such women suffered for transgressing their expected gender roles. For more secondary literature on this subject see the Bibliography. Gender in the Proceedings Men's and women's experiences of crime, justice and punishment Virtually every aspect of English life between and was influenced by gender, and this includes behaviour documented in the Old Bailey Proceedings. Cherry seller c. Footer Version 8.19 looking for woman 1840
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26c. Women's Rights