Women Petitioners: London Servants

I’m going to round off WHM2017 with a couple of posts indulging my current interests in petitions. Today I have two petitions from the London Lives Petitions Project: both are from working women who petitioned London magistrates for help after their employers’ actions had got them into serious trouble with the law. The first appealed to the justices because, she said, she had no other friends to help her in London; the second claimed abuses of power by her dishonest employer’s friends and relatives. Both women were subsequently exonerated.

Elizabeth Rainshaw, falsely accused of theft by her mistress in 1691:

The humble petition of Elizabeth Rainshaw

Sheweth that your petitioner hath lived in ye service of Mr. Scott (son in law of Justice Newman) about one year & an half & has been intrusted severall times with moneys & goods by her mistress to a considerable value; But now lately their being provision of coals brought into her said masters house the doors were sett open for them to goe in & out at pleasure.

That your petitioner’s mistress alleadging she lost six silver spoons the same day & 2 watches, hath charged your petitioner with the same & caused her to be comitted to Bridewell & has bound your petitioner’s uncle also over to appear before your Worshipps as being a confederate with her notwithstanding he is known to be an honest sufficient tradesman of the parish of Fulham in Middlesex & came not nere your petitioner yet the said Misstresse Scott in the night time cryd out her said uncle was come to rob them, & caused her husband to goe out of his house with 2 pistolls in his hands to the watch to seek the man that intrubled at their door & it happened to be one of their neighbors; Now for as much as the said Mrs. Scott hath heretofore accused severall of her servants for theft (vizt.) one for a dog of a hundred guineas price & one other for things afterwards found in her own closett & hath brought her servants to disgrace when they were not guilty; And your petitioner being bread up in ye country & hath no friends alive but her said uncle James Rainshaw, & being innocent of the said fact,

Your petitioner therefore humbly prays your Worshipps will be pleased strictly to examine the circumstances of the said matter which are too large to incert herein [LL LMWJPS653020007]

Elizabeth was tried at the Old Bailey Sessions of July 1691 and acquitted, ‘the Evidence being Circumstantial‘. (There is no way of knowing from the brief report whether her appeal to Westminster JPs had any influence on the outcome of the trial.)

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Martha Johnson, duped by a thieving employer in 1699:

The humble petition of Martha Johnson

Sheweth that your petitioner is bound over to this present Sessions for receiveing a parcell of plate from one Henry Marline, who stole the same, from James Liege his friend and relation, as to the felony your petitioner is innocent thereof, as may hereafter appear. That your petitioner well knoweing the said Marline to be a gentleman of undoubted creditt and unspolled reputation, who brought unto your petitioner in his fowle linnen (shee then being his washer woman) the plate aforesd, alleadgeing it not onely to be his owne, butt that being under an obligacon to pay a summe of money to support his creditt or he was utterly ruind, requested your petitioner to sell the same, which by reason of her poore circumstances, shee att first refused; butt was for the reasons aforesaid prevaild upon by the said Marline, he offering to goe along with your petitioner to indemnify her from all harm that should happen on that occasion.

That the said plate was stopt, and your petitioner being seized, had Marline apprehended, and deliverd into the charge of one John Kimpton the constable, who, either by negligence or combination with the said Liege and one Bobine friends and relations to Marline, who out of the tender regard they had for his life and reputation sufferd him to escape, the truth whereof your petitioner can make appear by severall credible witnesses.

May it therefore please your Lordshipp to discharge your petitioner And that the constable being now bound over, may be proceeded against according to law. [LMSLPS150100093]

Sir Robert Jeffreys, one of the JPs, investigated Martha’s case and reported that he was ‘well satisfied of her innocencye & integrity in this matter‘.

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How an 18th-century petitions works

Petitions of the People? (many headed monster)

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This entry was posted in Crime/Law, Early Modern, London Lives Petitions, WHM, Women/Gender and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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