The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 6

Jim Burroway

March 6th, 2012

“Lewd Behavior Upon a Bed”: 1649. The court records for Plymouth Colony recorded a very brief notation for March 6, 1649:

We present the wife of High Norman, and Mary Hammon, both of Yarmouth, for lewd behavior each with the other upon a bed.

According to Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac (pages 92-93):

Recent research by J.R. Roberts in the Plymouth manuscript records provides background information on Norman and Hammon. At the time of the above charges Mary Hammon was fifteen years old, and recently married. Sara Norman’s age is unknown, but she was apparently somewhat older, as he had been married in 1639. About the time of the court’s first charge, 1649, Hugh Norman, Sara’s husband, deserted his wife and children.

A marginal note in the Plymouth court record of March 6, 1649 reported that Mary Hammond was “cleared with admonition” — perhaps because of her youth. Sara Normon’s case was evidentially held over for later judgment.

…Patriarchal custom was evident in the fact that court records in this case referred to the “wife of Hugh Norman”; although Sara Norman was publicly charged with a serious crime, her whole name was used only once in the documents

On October 2, 1650, the court rendered its judgement and sentence on Sara Norman.

Whereas the wife of Hugh Norman, of Yarmouth, hath stood presented [in] divers Courts for misdemeanor and lewd behavior with Mary Hammon upon a bed, with divers lascivious speeches by her also spoken, but she could not appear by reason of some hindrances unto this Court, the said Court have therefore sentenced her, the said wife of Hugh Norman, for her wild behavior in the aforesaid particulars, to make a public acknowledgment, so far as conveniently may be, of her unchaste behavior, and have also warned her to take heed of such carriages for the future, lest her former carriage come in remembrance against her to make her punishment the greater.

The sentence of public confession and humiliation was lenient considering that the penalty for sodomy between men was death.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?


March 6th, 2012

Perhaps the court was somewhat lenient to Hugh Norman’s wife because Sara Norman’s husband had recently deserted her.

Hugh’s wife was obviously distraught over the abandonment and, thus, was not entirely in her right mind when she set herself lewdly and lasciviously upon young Mary Hammon. Oh, if only Sara’s husband had not deserted her for . . . hmmmm, what did happen to Hugh?


March 6th, 2012

Lesbians were never punished as harshly as gay men. In most cases, sex between women was not even explicitly covered by the law


March 6th, 2012

Of course her punishment was more lenient. Women are property, chattel, so who cares what they do with each other? But if a man treats another man as he should be treating a woman, that’s debasing and deserving a much higher punishment.

That’s why the Old Testament only mentions men lying together and not women. For the most part, it wasn’t nearly as big a deal because of the low view of women.

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