St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Eek! She's a "Common Scold"!

Sometimes, reading an old newspaper can bring out the giggles.  This morning, this article about a legal case in the 1869 court system really caught my eye.  After reading it, I wonder who this outspoken woman was.  I also have to wonder if that law was ever taken off the book in Pennsylvania.

A Common Scold

Michael Sweeny, a tavern keeper on Gibbon Street, in the Sixth Ward, made information before the Mayor a few days since against Mrs. Elizabeth CARREL, alleging that she was a "common scold."  This is a term applied by the common law to women, who from a propensity and disposition to quarrel with and scold their neighbors and families become a nuisance in the neighborhood in which they resided, and was punishable by fine and imprisonment.

The offense has never been embodied in our criminal code on account of the gallantry, perhaps, of those who revises it, and out of the the respect they had for American women, yet, notwithstanding its omission from the "catalogue of offenses", the courts have decided it to be an indictable offence in this State, as will be seen by reference to the case of the Commonwealth vs, Mole, reported in Second Smith.

In this case it appears from the testimony that there is some grounds for complaint on the part of the prosecutor, and if the conduct of the defendant at the Mayor's office is any evidence, the charge is well funded.  She was held to bail for her appearance at court.

Ahh, genealogy.  Guess this woman should have been more meek?  Can you imagine being labeled a "common scold"? Guess the standards have changed somewhat since then!

The Pittsburgh Gazette, Jan 11, 1869, pg8

©2011 AS Eldredge

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