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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mothers Who Kill: Infanticide in the Pennsylvania Gazette,1728-1800

  • Author(s): Sigona, Melissa
  • et al.

This essay examines approximately one hundred newspaper articles from the Pennsylvania Gazette to analyze the depiction of women in infanticide and neonaticide accounts. This study builds upon previous scholarly work and emphasizes a late-eighteenth-century shift in punishment and assessment of women who killed their illegitimate infants, which pre-figured the abolishment of capital punishment for infanticide. Throughout the eighteenth century, the Pennsylvania Gazette’s depiction of women accused of killing their illegitimate children consistently depended on their marital status. However, in the late-eighteenth century, the Gazette changed the way it described women accused of killing their illegitimate children; instead of focusing on the crime and the deceased infant’s location, it emphasized the infant’s clothing.

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