Scotch Verdict: The Real-Life Story That Inspired "The Children's Hour"

Overview

In 1810, a Scottish student named Jane Cumming accused her schoolmistresses, Jane Pirie and Marianne Woods, of having an affair in the presence of their students. Dame Helen Cumming Gordon, the wealthy and powerful grandmother of the accusing student, advised her friends to remove their daughters from the Drumsheugh boarding school. Within days, the institution was deserted and the two women were deprived of their livelihoods.

Award-winning author Lillian Faderman recreates the ...

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Scotch Verdict: The Real-Life Story that Inspired

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Overview

In 1810, a Scottish student named Jane Cumming accused her schoolmistresses, Jane Pirie and Marianne Woods, of having an affair in the presence of their students. Dame Helen Cumming Gordon, the wealthy and powerful grandmother of the accusing student, advised her friends to remove their daughters from the Drumsheugh boarding school. Within days, the institution was deserted and the two women were deprived of their livelihoods.

Award-winning author Lillian Faderman recreates the events surrounding this notorious case, which became the basis for Lillian Hellman's famous play, The Children's Hour. Reconstructing the libel suit filed by Pirie and Woods-which resulted in a scotch verdict, or a verdict of inconclusive/not proven-Faderman builds a compelling narrative from court transcripts, judges' notes, witnesses' contradictory testimonies, and the prejudices of the men presiding over the case. Her fascinating portrait documents the social, economic, and sexual pressures shaping the lives of nineteenth-century women and the issues of class and gender contributing to their marginalization.

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Editorial Reviews

Signs - Terry Castle
Faderman continues her valuable excavations of the archaeology of erotic relationships between women.... [She] has succeeded in recreating an absorbing, often peculiarly moving courtroom drama.
Women's Review of Books - Karla Jay
The records are fascinating: they open up for us the worlds of the young female student and the schoolmistress, as well as the workings of the judicial system of early nineteenth-century Scotland. Beyond that, they make us privy to a unique glimpse of what lesbianism was considered to be at the time.... A brilliant find.
Globe and Mail - William French
Faderman, a noted U.S. feminist, recreates the trial superbly, using the original transcripts and her own detective work. She examines the trial from a feminist viewpoint, showing how it revealed the prevailing attitudes toward women in a phallocentric society. Her approach is valid and compelling, but her story is fascinating on many other levels as well.... Totally engrossing.
San Francisco Book Review - Aron Row
An absorbing transcript detailing the evolution of our understanding of the sexual relationships between women using the Scotch trial as the lynchpin. The story is mesmerizing while the writing is riveting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231163255
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lillian Faderman is professor emerita of English at California State University, Fresno. Her award-winning titles are Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America; Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present; Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir; To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America — A History; and Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the 2013 EditionNota BeneAcknowledgmentsPart I. The AccusationPart II. The TrialPart III. The Review and AppealPart IV. The Settlement

Columbia University Press

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