Jane Champion the first of many


Jane Champion
?? – 1632

 Society has had a difficult time executing women.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t do it, just suffered over the choice and then BLAMMO!  Jane Champion was just the beginning; the only thing we know for sure was she was hanged in James City, Virginia, 1632.  Her crime has been forgotten, but her name lives on.  There is a huge variety of crimes that could have taken Jane to the gallows.  Even thought the laws regarding the death penalty varied from colony to colony the Laws of New England had not gone into effect as yet

Margaret Hatch was hanged in 1633 for murder, and in 1638 Dorothy Talby was hanged in Salem Massachusetts for the murder of her 3 year old daughter, Difficulty.   We will not enter into the expectations this mom had for her daughter from the day of her birth by the name she chose.  The youngest person hanged in America was Hannah Ocuish who was 12 years old and was described as a half breed Indian girl. She was executed on December 20, 1786 for the murder of a 6 year old girl whom she had beaten to death during an argument.  A time out wasn’t sufficient, so to the gallows.   

 The New York Colony instituted the Duke’s Laws of 1665 which made several puritanical offenses punishable by death.   In Puritan society young women, indentured servants, blacks, slaves, and the very young were at risk, they were not often allowed a defense.  There is a certain amount of wealth and social status mixed with a religious message often resulting with the harshest penalty.  Our modern society is still working on dismantling that custom.

 566 women were executed from 1632 to 1900 by various methods, usually hanging.  The majority was for murder, witchcraft, improper behavior, hiding an illegitimate pregnancy, striking a parent, and denying the true god. Women’s executions constitute approximately 3% of the total since 1608, but the statistics are changing.  The instance of violent crimes by women is escalating at an incredible rate playing havoc with the age old statistics.  Not what was expected from the female empowerment and equality.  Getting the vote in 1920 was to change American justice, so maybe the next step is to use the vote. We have come a long way baby!  Maybe when we get there we won’t be called baby.