J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Alderman Wooldridge and an Unfortunate Young Woman

Last month I introduced the figure of Thomas Wooldridge, an alderman of London who started the war as spokesman for the London merchants doing business with America and ended going bankrupt for the second time before dying in distant Boston.

While he was still a respectable magistrate in London, Wooldridge showed up in this story in the May 1777 London Magazine alongside a list of prisoners the American army took at Trenton:
Saturday 3 [May].

Yesterday two inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary Abchurch, made application to Mr. Alderman Wooldridge, at Guildhall for a warrant against the keeper of an infamous house, agreeable to the particular directions of the act of parliament; a warrant was granted, and Mr. Payne the constable immediately went to execute it; he presently came with the prisoner, a woman so big with child that she was on the eve of delivery; with her a pretty young woman, who, it afterwards turned out, was a nymph of the house.

Being closely interrogated by the alderman about her situation, she burst into a flood of tears, and a scene ensued that was extremely affecting: she said that she had lived in many reputable families, which she named, till being debauched by an attorney’s clerk, by whom she was with child, she was compelled to leave service and go to her father; but her mother-in-law [i.e., stepmother] turning her out of doors, she had no other resource to fly to than seeking that dissolute way of life which she now followed: every person present felt for the unfortunate girl, though nobody so much as herself, for her story was accompanied with the most evident emotions of contrition.

The alderman, in very severe terms, reprehended the keeper of the brothel, for to such characters, he justly observed, girls in general owed their ruin; but as the prisoner’s situation made her a very unfit object for a jail, she was permitted to return home, on a promise to discontinue the practice for which she was apprehended.

The young woman was sent by a constable to her father, who is a man of reputation; and we trust he will exercise tenderness, and not severity to a girl who appears to be more unfortunate than abandoned.
No word about how to deal with her stepmother.

See the In the Words of Women for an analysis of the print shown above.

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