Anne Orthwoods Bastard

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In Anne Orthwood's Bastard, John Ruston Pagan focuses our attention on the legalities surrounding a single case of out-of-wedlock pregnancy in seventeenth-century Virginia. Prosecutions for fornication and premarital pregnancy were common matters in early modern courts in Virginia, British North America, and England. Through Pagan's narrative, this seemingly routine case gains significance for early American legal history. He argues that the event, its characters, and the legal suits it generated, revealed that by the last half of the seventeenth century, Virginians had shaped a distinct legal culture on the Eastern Shore. In order to best illuminate the mechanics of local justice on the Eastern Shore, each chapter focuses on a key figure in the Orthwood case. Though I felt as if the focus was sidetracked from the initial narrative of Anne while I was reading, I realized at the end of the book the significance of profiling each character that pertained to the case. Anne was born in 1639 in Worcester, England; Anne's was the only entry of fifty-eight births registered in her Anglican parish designated with the Latin notha meaning bastard. Her mother fled to Bristol to avoid prosecution; three years later, she bore another daughter out-of-wedlock. In 1662, Anne indentured her labor and sailed for Virginia at the age of twenty-three. Two years later she was pregnant, giving birth to twins in July 1664, naming John Kendall as their father. She died during child birth, as well as one of her twin sons. The later chapters are devoted to each individual involved in the case. This approach effectively captures local legal culture and reveals the disturbing extent to which empowered men on the Eastern Shore were able to mold the law to their own self-interests. Pagan is most concerned with the manipulation of legalities and the rapid legal modifications made by empowered colonists. Indenture contracts, for instance, became extremely flexible to local interests....
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