Donald Fyson, Université Laval

A paper for the 75th annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, St. Catharines, June 1996
Draft - please do not cite without consulting me (donald.fyson@hst.ulaval.ca)
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In November 1790, Magdeleine Surprenant, the 25-year-old wife of Joseph Boucher, of the parish of Laprairie, heard sticks and stones being thrown at the shutters of her house. According to the deposition she made three days later before Paul Lacroix, a Laprairie justice of the peace,

Etant sortie pour voir qui faisoit ce vacarme, elle a vuë Louis Dubé fils qui, mu de la plus violente colere, l'a accablée d'injures, la menaceant de la maltraiter de cette façon toutefois que son mari serait absent, et que s'il y avait des chaises à sa maison, il les casserait, que la dite Magdelaine Surprenant, craignante les violences du dit Louis Dubé fils, retournant en sa maison, elle se sentit frapper d'un baton dans les elleins, qui lui a jetté le dit Louis Dubé fils, ce qui la reduit à garder le lit, en danger sinon pour elle, au moins pour son fruit, étant enceinte de trois mois environ, c'est pourquoi elle requiert que justice lui soit rendu suivant les loix.

Lacroix issued a warrant against Dubé, who was arrested two days later by Louis Geophroy dit Belhumeur, the local bailiff, and entered into a recognizance to appear at the next Quarter Sessions in Montreal, in January 1791. At the court, presided over by five of Montreal's justices of the peace, both Surprenant and Dubé appeared; the former by then would have been five months pregnant. Though the 24 men on the grand jury felt there was enough evidence to indict Dubé, the twelve men of the trial jury found him not guilty. The child, Josephe, was born four months later.(1)

In some respects, Magdelaine Surprenant's story goes against the received wisdom regarding the criminal justice system in Quebec and Lower Canada before the Rebellions, and the English criminal justice system on which it was based. Here we have a young, married, francophone woman, drawn from the rural popular classes, acting without the authorization of her husband, using a criminal justice system entirely composed of men to fight back against the violence of a man against her. But of course, Surprenant's case is only that: a single case, of immense significance for her and for Josephe, but by itself not able to tell us much about women, power, and the law in Quebec and Lower Canada. To understand the context of this case, this paper examines the experiences of 596 women who laid complaints before the justices of the peace in the judicial district of Montreal (covering the western half of the colony) from 1779 to 1830, in less serious cases that did not go on to the higher criminal courts.(2)

My basic interest is to locate the place that the official justice system of the state held in the lives of these women: was it a source of power, or a source of oppression? The rhetoric of criminal justice systems throughout early modern and modern Western society held that they were impartial defenders of the public, including women, against predatorial criminals, a position repeated by modern defenders of the status quo.(3) However, in the same way that marxist historians showed how the rhetoric of justice and protection masked an intense class bias,(4) feminist historians of the 1970s and 1980s, as part of the broader feminist questioning of legal systems, also rejected this notion, showing how Western criminal justice systems were fundamentally patriarchal and did very little for women. Women who were victims of sexual aggression and domestic violence got little satisfaction from the police and the courts, while criminal laws sought to control women's activites and bodies, in areas ranging from witchcraft and scolding in the early modern period to abortion and prostitution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.(5) This approach conceptualized women who came in contact with the criminal law largely as victims: first, either as the victims of criminal acts, or as victims of the criminal law that led to their arrest; and once they reached the criminal justice system, as victims of police and courts who systematically discriminated against them. In the words of one writer discussing women in eighteenth-century Argentina, "The weak in this society were triply victimized - by those who attacked their honor, by the frustrations involved in appealing to local justice, and by the general lack of retribution which this justice, once activated, provided."(6)

More recently, a number of writers have been re-examining this concept of women as essentially passive actors within the legal system, in works ranging from studies of witchcraft and power in the early modern period, to wife abuse in the nineteenth century.(7) Closer to home, Mary Anne Poutanen, Kathryn Harvey, and Karen Dubinsky have all shown that in nineteenth-century Canada, prostitutes, battered wives, and victims of sexual aggression, all undoubtedly victims of a patriarchal society, were far from passive in their contacts with a criminal justice system that was biased against them.(8) As one recent text on women and the law in early modern England notes, "women were far from being passive victims or bystanders, and it is no longer adequate to discuss their experiences within the simple paradigm of active/passive".(9) But there are also dangers in this re-examination, for in seeking to re-empower women and to broaden the analysis beyond the paradigm of the victim, some historians have reverted to accepting the patriarchal assumptions of the very courts they are studying. Thus for example, within a collection of otherwise excellent articles, Martin Ingram's treatment of scolds in early modern England, rejecting the notion that it represented a "crisis of gender relations", points instead to the "personal circumstances and individual psychology" of the accused women as the main explanatory factors, and describes scolds as "invariably dismal negotiators of social relationships ... temperamentally inclined to confrontation rather than to compromise";(10) Ingram thus essentially adopts the perspective of the male judges at the time who ordered these women fined, ducked, or put in the stocks. The challenge for the historian is thus to walk that fine line between disempowering women by seeing them only as victims of the criminal law, and thus removing their agency, and occluding the very real discrimination against and victimization of women by institutions that were composed of and often biased towards men. And it is this delicate task that I will attempt in this paper. I begin with an overview of the women who brought complaints before the justices. And I then turn briefly to three sorts of cases that women were involved in as complainants before the justices: bastardy; domestic violence; and other violence. Examining women's experiences as complainants in each of these sorts of cases allows me to discern both the extent to which women tried to and were successful in exercising power through the criminal justice system of the state, and the very real limits of this power.

Female prosecutors: an overview

That gender issues have not attracted much attention from those who have written on criminal justice in Quebec and Lower Canada is largely due to the fact that, as far as defendants in the higher criminal courts are concerned, on whom most attention has been focussed, women played a very small role. Thus, Jean-Marie Fecteau, in finding that over 95% of defendants in the King's Bench between 1775 and 1840 were male, simply remarks that "la criminalité des tribunaux supérieurs est très majoritairement une criminalité masculine."(11) But if we turn our attention from defendants to prosecutors, and from the higher criminal courts, which heard a minority of cases, to the justices of the peace and their courts, who dealt with the great majority of complaints, the situation was less clear-cut. As Table 1 shows, women were certainly in the minority among people who brought complaints before the Montreal justices of the peace; but they were a significant minority, between 25% and 30% of complainants. There is no doubt that the justice system was an inherently gendered institution: the justices, the clerks and other officials, the constables and bailiffs, the members of the jury, the attornies, all were men; the laws and the law books were all written by men; and thus when a woman ventured into court, or even into the office of a justice of the peace to lodge a complaint, she was entering an essentially masculine space. But at least at the level of the justices of the peace, it was not an exclusively masculine space. And just as importantly, when she encountered this male institution, a woman was about twice as likely to be seeking redress for a crime that had been committed against her, than to be the purported perpetrator of a crime. It is these women, who sought out the criminal justice system rather than being sought out by it, who are the focus of this study.




1796-1800/ 1805/1810

1815/1820/ 1825/1830


148/561 (25%)

126/436 (29%)

322/1322 (24%)


22/133 (17%)

66/500 (13%)

215/1632 (13%)

Note: Defendants are based only on the case-files

When these women made complaints to the justices, as Table 2 shows, the overwhelming majority complained about violence, whether violence by members of their family (usually their husbands), or, more commonly, violence by others. The only exception to this predominance of violence was bastardy cases in the eighteenth century, which accounted for almost a third of woman complainants; however, as we will see, this way in which women came before the courts disappeared after 1795. The small number of women lodging complaints for property offences, such as theft or vandalism, is not at all surprising, since married women and minors, who comprised the vast majority of women, were largely excluded from the formal ownership and control of the sort of property liable to be stolen or damaged; and as for public order offences, such as prostitution or infractions of municipal regulations, in Montreal most such offences were prosecuted by low-level state officials such as constables, who were invariably men. The ways in which women encountered the justice system of the state thus reflected their formally subordinate position in property relations and state structures. But this also meant that when women came before the justices as complainants, it was in ways intimately connected to their own bodies. What they were seeking to protect was not their property or their society; it was themselves.






1796-1800/ 1805/1810

1815/1820/ 1825/1830



Domestic violence

12 (9%)

17 (14%)

63 (20%)



Sexual violence

3 (2%)

2 (2%)

2 (1%)



Other violence

73 (54%)

97 (78%)

223 (71%)




42 (31%)

2 (2%)

1 (<1%)




5 (4%)

3 (2%)

12 (4%)



Public order


3 (2%)

11 (4%)



*Because of source problems, it is impossible to extrapolate absolute numbers for the first period, or for anything but other violence in the second period.

In interpreting these numbers, it is also important to remember that they cover only cases that did not go on to the higher criminal courts; they thus largely exclude two important categories where women were victims of criminal acts, namely sexual assault, and murder and attempted murder. To put this exclusion into perspective, however, unpublished research by Sandy Ramos on the upper courts in the district of Montreal reveals only 57 cases of sexual assault between 1810 and 1829. As for murder and attempted murder, there has been as yet no detailed study, but if we assume, following other work on pre-industrial Canada, that about one quarter of victims would be female,(12) this would yield about 40 cases for the 1810s and 1820s; at any rate, in murder cases at least, the female victim can hardly be considered a "complainant". When women lodged a complaint with the criminal justice system, they thus did so in four types of cases: violence that as not domestic; domestic violence; bastardy, at least in the eighteenth century; and sexual violence.

Not all women were the same, however, and despite the gender that brought them together, it is crucial to consider how factors such as race, ethnicity, class, geography, and others biased the experiences of women who came in contact with the criminal law. The racial bias was evident, in that almost all the women were European. Native and Black women, though present in the colony, almost never resorted to the courts, though there were a few exceptions: thus, for example, in 1799, Agathe Sagosennageté, the wife of Thomas Arakouanté, a Caughanawaga trader, filed a complaint against Otiogwannon Ontsientani, "un des chefs des sauvages de Caughnawaga", for threatening to kill her if she attended church.(13) On the other hand, if we look at the ethnicity of the women who laid complaints, we get a very different picture. In general, historians have assumed that the criminal justice system imposed by the British conquerors after 1760 was rejected by the predominately francophone population.(14) My research has shown that this was not entirely the case, and that up until the 1820s at least, between 60% and 70% of all complainants in general were francophones;(15) and if we look at women complainants only, this proportion is even higher. In fact, as Table 3 shows, while only 50% to 60% of male complainants were francophone, three quarters of female complainants were francophone; and francophone women were twice as likely to complain as their non-francophone counterparts. Teasing out the meaning of this preponderance of francophone women is very difficult, but it certainly modifies a traditional view of the passivity of francophone women, and of specifically francophone dislike for the justice system.




1796-1800/ 1805/1810

1815/1820/ 1825/1830

Proportion of francophones among:

Female complainants

116/148 (78%)

98/125 (78%)

242/321 (75%)

Defendants of same

111/158 (70%)

101/139 (73%)

240/376 (64%)

Male complainants

225/432 (52%)

184/308 (60%)

510/999 (51%)

Proportion of female complainants among:


116/342 (32%)

98/282 (35%)

235/745 (33%)


32/233 (14%)

27/151 (19%)

86/575 (15%)

Understanding the social class of women who made complaints is more difficult, since in only about a third of cases was enough information available, usually through the occupation of their husband or father. In general, among the people who came before the justices of the peace in the district of Montreal, complainants and defendants alike were drawn very largely from the mass of society, notably unskilled and skilled labourers and farmers;(16) and this also held for woman. Thus, of 182 women whose social class is identifiable, 34 came from the elite or middling segment of society, very broadly defined (down to medium shopkeepers); 65 were from skilled labour; 48 from unskilled labour; 28 from among farmers, and 7 from groups on the margins of society, such as soldiers or slaves. The women who came before the justices to make complaints were thus not at all from a privileged elite; most instead were from the popular classes.

Another crucial factor is the marital status of the woman complainants. Historians have often assumed that under English law, since married women ceased to be persons and became instead femes covertes, they simply did not appear in the legal system. Work on the status of femes covertes in the American colonies suggests that married women were more active in practice than their formal legal status might suggest; for example, they were not spared from prosecution because of their status.(17) The situation was more complicated in Quebec and Lower Canada, because of the co-existence of French civil and English criminal justice systems, though in theory the English rules should have applied in criminal cases. However, as Table 4 shows, there was apparently little impediment to married women making complaints in their own names: even if we assume that all women whose marital status was not explicitly mentioned in the court documents were single, over half of the women who brought complaints before the justices were married, and the proportion changed very little between francophones and non-francophones. Further, few depositions by women bothered to include the formula required by the Coutume de Paris, whereby women declared themselves duly authorized by their husbands.







328 (55%)

249 (55%)

77 (56%)


35 (6%)

24 (5%)

11 (8%)


86 (14%)

72 (16%)

14 (10%)


147 (25%)

111 (24%)

36 (26%)

On the other hand, there was a much more considerable bias in terms of geographical location. The district of Montreal covered the entire western half of the colony of Quebec/Lower Canada, and the city of Montreal itself comprised only about 10% of the population of the district. However, about 70% of women complainants were from Montreal itself, an even higher proportion than for complainants in general, where the proportion of urban dwellers was about 60%. Urban women were thus massively over-represented, even more so than urban men; and recourse to the justice system by women was thus a largely though not exclusivey urban phenomenon, with women like Magdeleine Surprenant very much in the minority.

A final observation concerns who these women were complaining with; for if in most instances they were simply adjuncts to a male complainant, such as their husband or father, as was the case in the seduction cases that Constance Backhouse has examined later in the nineteenth century, their participation would take on an entirely different tone. However, among the complainants whom I examined, 92% made their complaint alone, and another 2% in conjunction only with other women; only 6% were adjuncts in complaints made by men.

This is a thumbnail sketch of the women who brought their grievances before the justices of the peace: predominately francophone; predominately urban; more than half married; drawn from society at large; and generally responding on their own to violence against them. But this overall image is, after all, just that. To illustrate the specificity of the experiences of women prosecutors, we must focus instead on the specific types of complaints, namely bastardy cases, domestic violence, and other violence.

Bastardy cases

The bastardy cases that came before Montreal's justices of the peace illustrate the criminal justice system at its apparently most responsive towards women. Prosecutions for bastardy had a long tradition in Quarter Sessions in England, allowing for the father of an illegitimate child to be pursued for the costs of childbirth, the expenses of raising the child, and for punitive damages. The English bastardy laws were not, however, progressive instruments for the protection of single mothers; rather, they formed an integral part of the Poor Laws, and their main intent was to avoid bastard children becoming a burden on the parish and thus on its propertied rate-payers. Indeed, the complement to the suit of the father was the punishment of the mother of a bastard child, usually by a term in the local house of correction.(18)

The practice was transferred to Quebec following the Conquest: as early as 1767, Catharine Bauparlant prosecuted Joseph Dondaneau for bastardy (unsuccessfully) in the Montreal Quarter Sessions.(19) But in the colony, bastardy prosecutions took on a very different tone. First, there was never any question of punishing the mothers of bastard children, unlike in the American colonies, where such prosecutions were frequent. And secondly, since there were no poor rates, and no parish local government of the English kind, bastardy suits became instead a means for single mothers, or their parents, to seek financial redress from those who had impregnated them. They thus followed the practice of New France, where Marie-Aimée Cliche found almost a hundred cases where women launched legal proceedings against men who got them pregnant.(20) Indeed, bastardy cases primarily involved Canadiens, who accounted for about 90% of both prosecutors and defendants; and they were largely a rural phenomenon, with only two cases from Montreal among the 24 cases where I have been able to determine the geographic origin of the participants. None of the women were from the elites, since the key to a bastardy case was proving that the mother was unable to support the child herself; but as Cliche found in New France, some of the men being sued were clearly members of the elites, such as Catherine Lebeau's prosecution of Dr. George Plunket of L'Assomption in 1785, or Rebecca Samuel's prosecution of Samuel Judah, an important Montreal merchant, in 1781.(21) However, in other cases, the defendant was also clearly not well-off; thus, when François Dirigé dit Laplante was condemned to pay £3 to Marguerite Varin in 1790, he was given fifteen days to find the money "on account of his poverty".(22)

The question that arises immediately is the extent to which these suits were at the behest of the woman herself, rather than of her parents. Constance Backhouse has shown that nineteenth-century seduction suits in Canada had very little to do with the woman who was seduced, and were instead instances of the father suing for damages to his possessions.(23) The bastardy cases that came before the justices of the peace in the district of Montreal in the eighteenth century, however, were more ambiguous. As was the case in New France, some cases were clearly mainly at the impetus of a man, generally the woman's father or employer. Thus, there is little doubt that when Henry Stodt, of Varennes, was charged with bastardy in 1788 for having impregnated Lisette, a Native slave of Joseph Ainse, it was Ainse who was suing Stodt for damage to his property;(24) and similar considerations probably prompted the prosecution of François Traversie in 1785 by a woman described only as "Margaritte, a servant girl at Mr. Bisson's of St. Geneviève".(25) In other cases, the record is more obliquely suggestive of paternal involvement: for example, Marguerite Bertrand's prosecution of François Lantier in 1792 was conducted for her by her step-father, ostensibly because the eighteen-year-old was too ill to appear in court.(26) On the other hand, there were at least five widows who prosecuted men for bastardy; several of the single women who brought suits were fatherless; and even among the single women, many were willing to go to considerable trouble to ensure that their cases were successful, as when Marie-Louise Reine, a nineteen-year-old, travelled all the way from Yamaska to Montreal to swear her complaint against Pierre Petit fils.(27) In these cases, it is more difficult to deny these women agency.

Part of the reason that women were willing to launch bastardy suits was their effectiveness, for in the Quarter Sessions after 1779, bastardy suits were consistently successful: up to 1794, in every case where the woman persisted to a full trial before the justices, the man was found guilty. The proceedings in these trials were not at all what one might expect from an otherwise evidently patriarchal system. First, unlike in rape trials, the justices were usually more willing to believe the word of the woman than of the man she was accusing or of witnesses brought up against her. Thus, at the bastardy trial of Lantier, in October 1792, Lantier's attorney presented a witness who claimed to have heard Bertrand accuse Lantier of liking her sister more than her, and threatening that "je me ferai attrapper par quelque autre et je dirai que c'est toi, et j'en ferai serment, et que ce serment seroit sans aucune consequence"; the justices nevertheless found Lantier guilty.(28) Further, the justices were clearly more concerned with recompensing the woman than with the fiction of ensuring that the child did not become a burden on the parish: thus, they made several awards in cases where the child would manifestly not become a burden on anybody, since it was dead. Even in the matter of the custody of the child, the justices did not entirely follow the patriarchal model that would later come to dominate in Canada: thus, in Catherine Parranteau's prosecution of Simon Frichet fils in April 1782, they awarded Parranteau £4 lying in costs plus 2/6 per week up to the age of 5 years, whereupon father could take child "unless the mother chooses to keep it at her own costs and expences".(29) And the justices also did not hesitate to enforce their sentences: thus, Etienne Grinier of Repentigny spent three months in jail because he was unable to satisfy the court-imposed payment to Therese Latouche.(30) This is not to say that the justices' decisions were uniformly favourable to women. In the case of Lantier, for example, they refused to order him imprisoned until he made his payment to Betrand. And in the two bastardy cases involving elite defendants, Samuel Judah, the Montreal merchant, and Dr. George Plunket, the L'Assomption physician, the justices gave custody of the children to the fathers, though they were to remain with their mothers while still young. But in general, a man facing a bastardy suit ran a very high risk of having most decisions go against him.

The threat of a bastardy suit was thus a powerful weapon to induce an illegitimate father to make some sort of arrangement with the woman he had impregnated. One such arrangement was marriage. Thus, in January 1786, Marguerite Lavigne, the young engagé of Jean Monjean, a Varennes habitant, travelled to Montreal to complain that Monjean "ayant faite plusieurs demandes pour couché avec elle en faisant plusieurs promesses d'amité et marriage et après repetitions de les diverses promesses de marriage a gagnier sur la faiblesse de cette deposante de manière qu'il a couché avec elle et a eu connoissance chernelle de son corps", and that upon her becoming pregnant, she had asked him to marry him, but that he had replied that it did not regard him. On Lavigne's complaint, Monjean was arrested by the local bailiff, one Manasse, at 7:00 in the morning; but the complaint went no further, probably because in April 1786, a month after the birth (and death) of the child, Monjean married Lavigne, with the couple having six more children up to 1798. Similarly, in January 1794, Marguerite Lacoste, a 39-year-old Boucherville widow who had had thirteen children with her previous husband, launched a bstardy complaint against Paschal Daudelin, fourteen years her junior; her child, Félicité, was born in March. The complaint was obviously an insufficient incentive, for the case went on to full trial, and in July, Daudelin was condemend to pay forty shillings lying-in expenses plus the same sum for maintenance of Félicité since her birth plus ten shillings per month plus twenty shillings costs, and to be committed until the whole was paid. This provided the necessary leverage for Lacoste: a month later, in August, she and Daudelin married and legitimated Félicité, though the child died three months later. Indeed, out of eighteen bastardy cases where the parties were identifiable from parish records and the man was not already married, ten resulted in marriages. In fully half of all bastardy suits, the woman either declared herself satisfied, or simply dropped the prosecution. And beyond the bastardy cases that were actually brought before justices, how many threats of suits that were never carried out?

But bastardy cases also illustrate how, while the criminal law could be a source of leverage for some women, the legalistic decisions of the justices who made up the Quarter Sessions could severely curtail this tool, for after 1795 bastardy prosecutions ceased entirely. In that year, David Ross, a young lawyer who three decades later would himself become Montreal's chief magistrate, argued that the complaint of Anne Grandmaitre, a 23-year-old Chateauguay woman whose parents were both dead, against Joachim Foubert should be dismissed as "there is no law in force in this country that authorises the Justices in sessions to take cognizance of complaints of this nature". Technically, Ross was correct, since the Poor Laws were among those "laws of a purely local nature" that were not automatically transferred to the colony. After deliberating, the justices agreed and dismissed the complaint, despite the arguments by Grandmaitre's lawyer, Louis Foucher, that "there is a law which authorises the Justices in sessions to take cognizance of complaints of this nature and that since the establishment for [sic] the Quarter Sessions in this province they have uniformly taken cognizance of such complaints."(31) Subsequently, the justices refused absolutely to hear any bastardy complaints. Thus, in August 1815, Marie Savary, the widow of Michel Peltier, a Saint-Mathias blacksmith, brought a bastardy complaint against Antoine Meunier, the son of a Saint-Mathias farmer, swearing it before Louis Guy at Montreal with the assistance of her attorney; two weeks after making the complaint, she managed to have Meunier brought before Philip Byrne, a Saint-Jean-Baptiste justice, to enter a recognizance to appear at the next Quarter Sessions; but at the court, the justices summarily dismissed the charge as "not being within the jurisdiction of this court."(32) One of the principal ways in which women, and rural women in particular, had used the criminal justice system in the eighteenth century had thus disappeared.

Domestic violence

The experience of women resorting to the justice system in cases of domestic violence illustrates even more clearly the ambivalence of the system for women. Unlike in England, in France, or in New France, and following instead the practice in the United States, husbands in Quebec and Lower Canada did not have the legal right to beat their wives, and battered wives had the right to lodge a formal complaint against their abusers.(33) As we saw above, domestic violence accounted for a significant minority of the complaints that women brought before the justices of the peace. And it is very clear that for some women, the police and the courts were an important tool in responding to violent physical abuse from their husbands. Consider the deposition that Catherine Robertson made to Samuel Gale in 1830 against her husband David, a Montreal comb-maker:

My husband has frequently abused ill treated and used personal violence towards me and threatened to deprive me of life; that he has in the violence of his passion on some occasions thrown down the stove at the risk of setting the house and neighbourhood on fire, broken the furniture and inflicted severe blows on me. That last night he beat me again, knocked me down and jumped with his feet upon my body in such wise as to endanger my life. That on a previous occasion three days before he jumped with his feet upon my body and injured me so much that in consequence I vomited shortly after about two quarts of blood. And I verily believe that I shall be deprived of life by his violence unless he shall be imprisoned or compelled to give security.(34)

After the latest assault, she went to her next-door neighbour, Andrew Watt, a cooper, who called the watch and had her husband taken into custody. The criminal justice system had not protected her from her husband's violence; but it had provided a means for her to protect herself from her husband after the fact, at least temporarily.

It is clear that police and justices often took domestic violence very seriously. Consider, for example, the deposition that George Sery, Jean-Baptiste Castonguay, Louis Sabourin, and Jean-Baptiste Morin, all long-serving Montreal constables, made January 2, 1800 against Joseph Joutras. Joutras being at home in the faubourg Saint-Laurent "pris de boisson", Madame Dorleans, with whom he lodged, sent for Sery "pour mettre la paix chez lui". After arriving, the constables "ont vû et ôté entre ses mains Marie Dorée sa femme laquelle il etoit disposé à lui oter la vie, et l'auroit exécuté s'ils ne furent été presens, ayant pris une chaise à la main pour l'assommer, que ce même Joutras est dangereux, professant sans cesse 'il faut que je te tue' ces paroles adressés à sa femme et qu'il est à presumer, que pour eviter un malheur le dit Joutras, doit être mis en sureté."(35) Likewise, even though the colonial administration normally assumed the cost of prosecutions only in felony cases, Richard Hart, Montreal's police and then high constable in the late 1810s, went so far as to charge his fees in several cases of wife battering to the government, alongside charges for arresting thieves and murderers, although these were later disallowed along with most of his other charges.(36) Further, husbands who battered their wives were much more likely to end up in gaol on preliminary imprisonment than those in assault cases in general: while wife batterers made up only 5% of defendants brought before the justices in 1810, 1815, and 1820, they accounted for 20% of prisoners committed to the gaol on assault charges in the same period, although whether this was as a result of the justices demanding a higher bail in these cases, or the community in general refusing to enter into bail for wife-batterers, is difficult to know. Whatever the reasons, the willingness of justices to send wife batterers to prison must have been one of the reasons that women were willing throughout the period to bring these complaints before the formal criminal justice system. Finally, in the few cases of domestic violence that went to trial in the Quarter Sessions, the justices were unwilling to impose any limitation on the rights of wives to testify against their husbands: thus, in 1815, at the trial of Michel Bourgoin dit Bourguignon for assaulting Marguerite Laurin, his wife, Bourgoin's lawyer objected to the admissibility of Laurin's evidence "the said being against her husband;" but the justices on the bench over-ruled the objection and admitted Laurin's evidence.(37)

The case of Laurin and Bourgoin was exceptional in that it went to full trial at the Quarter Sessions. More typical was that of Marie Sançon and her husband, the butcher Jean Lessart (or John Lesser). In January 1798 Sançon appeared in the Quarter Sessions to ask that Lessart be compelled to enter into a recognizance to keep the peace, and the court accordingly ordered a six month recognizance, which Lessart entered in to. Three months later, however, Sançon was back in court along with her husband, and "acknowledged that her fears derived from the ill-treatment and menaces of the said John were removed, and prayed a discontinuance of her complaint against him, and that he might be discharged from his recognizance."(38) Indeed, while women made consistent complaints against their husbands for battering them, they almost never pursued these complaints as far as a formal court case. Instead, in almost every case, wife-batterers were arrested and then either bound to keep the peace or, in default, imprisoned; of the few complaints of spouse abuse that became cases in the Quarter Sessions, most were resolved by the court summarily imposing a recognizance to keep the peace; and in only three cases did complaints of spouse abuse go on to full trial.

This summary resolution of spouse abuse, though, was an ambivalent tool for women. Peace bonds and summary imprisonment had the advantage of giving battered women an immediate respite from their husbands, allowing the justice system to intervene immediately in cases of domestic violence; but this was only because of an unwieldy court system where assault victims could wait as long as three months until the next sitting of the formal court, the Quarter Sessions. Further, as Kathryn Harvey has shown of battered women in Montreal later in the century, since most battered wives who made complaints were from the popular classes, they faced significant costs when they took their husband to court, both in terms of the costs of going to trial, which victims had to pay themselves, and the loss of the income of their economic partner.(39) A deposition and warrant by themselves might cost five shillings, or the equivalent of two days unskilled waged labour, though the accounts of Hart, the high constable, mentioned above, suggest that not all battered women were asked to pay these fees. This was expensive enough; but if a case went to full trial, the costs multiplied enormously. An indictment alone cost over 22 shillings; and the total costs of a standard assault case might run to several pounds. Victors in such cases could expect to have the court order the defendant to pay these costs; but even apart from the difficulty of collecting such sums, in the case of battered women, the money came straight from their own family economy.

Further, not all battered women had equal access to the justice system. First, if most of the women who came before the justices in bastardy cases were from the countryside, most of the women who complained of domestic violence were from the city itself. In part this is a reflection of the records used for this study, which in terms of summary resolution by recognizance are biased towards women who appeared before justices of the peace in the city of Montreal itself. There are indications that battered women from outside of the city sometimes appealed to local justices: thus, the fragmentary notebook of two William Henry justices, Henry Crebassa and Robert Jones, recording business that they did not send on to Montreal, contains the cases of Nathalie Braux asking for security of the peace against Pierre Baillac dit Lamontagne, her husband, and also Mary Valois versus Antoine Valois (though the relationship in this case was not specified) for assault, in both of which cases the justices imposed a recognizance to keep the peace. And there are also several cases in which women travelled from the far parishes to Montreal to complain against their husbands: thus, Magdeleine Allard, the wife of Charles Maillou, a Saint-Denis farmer, came before Jean-Marie Mondelet on September 16, 1820, to complain that her husband had been beating her for several years, and a week earlier had wounded her in the leg and thrown her from the bed onto her child's cradle; Mondelet issued an arrest warrant, and four days later Maillou was in Montreal entering into a recognizance to keep the peace for six months.(40) Nevertheless, complaints for domestic violence remained a largely urban phenomenon; rural women more rarely used the justice system for that purpose.

Secondly, ethnicity and class seem to have played a role in deciding whether battered women would resort to the jusice system. Francophone women seem to have been compratively less willing to bring domestic violence complaints before magistrates than their anglophone counterparts: while domestic violence cases accounted for about third of the complaints made by non-francophone women, the proportion was only half that among francophones, though given the prepondernace of francophones among women who made complaints to the justices, this still meant that there were more domestic violence complaints involving francophones. And domestic violence complaints were made almost entirely by women from the popular classes, with only two cases involving women from the more privileged segment of society.

And thirdly, the domestic violence complaints that reached the justices almost all involved spouse abuse; other forms of domestic violence, such as child abuse, were rarely brought before the justices. There were a handful of women who complained against other family members: thus, for example, in 1825 Catherine Choit, the unmarried daughter of Patrick Choit, of Boucherville, complained that her father "is incapable of maintaining [her], that he is of a tyrannical and malicious disposition towards [her] ... that he has of late threatened that if he would once more lay his hands upon her, that he would tie her up, and make her suffer every kind of ill treatment, that he has been of late ... assisted and accompanied by a coloured man and two or three others, all armed with clubs in search of deponent, so much so that the deponent is now in danger of her life".(41) But children, mothers, sisters, who if later studies are any indication were as much recipients of male violence as wives, had little recourse to the criminal justice system.(42)

As well, as most studies of domestic violence have shown, recourse to the justice system was not a first-line defence, and battered women usually went to the justice system only after prolonged abuse: about three quarters of the complaints that battered women made explicitly mentioned prolonged physical and/or verbal abuse. This was not because justices required proof of long-term abuse to act: even Samuel Gale, a particularly retrograde chief magistrate of the late 1820s, was willing to impose a recognizance to keep the peace on the basis of a deposition wherein when Mary Flynn accused James Dogherty of threatening to kill her with a table fork while he was drunk, without any mention of any physical or prior verbal abuse.(43) But it was only when abuse reached an intolerable level that women were willing to go before a justice.

Further, we must not think that the justice system itself was a pro-active force in dealing with domestic violence. In the first place, not all justices were equally willing to facilitate domestic violence prosecutions. Under two chief magistrates in the latter half of the 1820s, the francophobic tory Samuel Gale and David Ross (the former lawyer who had successfully destroyed bastardy prosecutions), though the number of women bringing complaints involving domestic violence before the justices in Montreal remained steady, the number of wife-batterers committed to gaol dropped sharply. And consider the comments made by Chartier de Lotbinière, an aristocratic Vaudreuil justice, in a covering letter enclosing the documents relating to the complaint of Magdelaine Treslerd, the twenty-year-old daughter of one Treslerd, against her father for beating her on several occasions: in explaining why he had not required Magdelaine to enter into a recognizance to prosecute, he stated that "dans les divisions et difficultés de famille, il faut autant que possible, laisser une porte ouverte aux accomodements."(44)

As well, the "neutrality" of the criminal justice system in matters of domestic violence is evident from the fact that it was not only wives who could turn to the justice system against their husbands. but also husbands against their wives. In about 10% of domestic violence cases in all, it was husbands who were complaining against their wives for physical abuse. Thus, in 1820 John Forbes, a Saint-Eustache farmer, complained that his wife, Isabella Dingwall,

hath upon several occasions attempted to take the life of and murder this deponent, that on the thirteenth instant, he was attacked and violently seized by his said wife by the throat, and was then and there nearly strangled, that she hath repeatedly attempted to stab this deponent with a sword and with knifes which she had hid for the purpose of killing the deponent, that the said Isabella Dingwall hath publickly threatened and declared that she would kill and murder this deponent and hath frequently in the night time made search for the deponent armed with a knife and other weapons to kill the deponent, that this deponent hath been obliged to save his life to leave his house and employ persons to save and protect him, that the deponent doth further swear that the said Isabella Dingwall hath purchased poison and hath attempted to poison the deponent and others of his family, that he doth verrily believe that unless the said Isabella Dingwall is taken and confined that she will murder him the deponent and others of his family.(45)

And finally, even if police and justices had all the will in the world to stop spouse abuse, there were severe limits to the extent to which the justice system could really protect women from abusive husbands. Abusive husbands were well aware that they could be arrested: John Skelton, for example, a Montreal butcher, declared to Marie Gosse, his wife, that "si elle ... ne le faisait pas arreter ... elle se souviendrait de lui".(46) But this did not stop them beating their wives: Marie-Josephte Brais, the wife of Toussaint Renaud dit Desloriers, a Longueuil farmer, declared in December 1830 that her husband had beaten her so much that fifteen days ago she had been obliged to have him arrested, but he had continued so that she had to leave the house with her children;(47) and indeed Marie-Louise Saint-Aubin of Saint-Laurent stated that Antoine Legault dit Delorier, her husband, "aurait dit à la dite déposante que si elle le fesait prendre, il ferait bruler ses batimens".(48) One case in particular illustrates the very real limits of taking this route and soliciting judicial intervention, that of Marie Reeves, the wife of François Vinet dit Souligny, of Longue-Pointe. As a result of her husband's abuse, Reeves had on several occasions had recourse to the justice system, and on September 28, 1821 had him arrested and committed to gaol. A month later, Vinet managed to mortgage his property to procure bail; and on January 1st, 1822, he murdered Reeves by hitting her repeatedly with a piece of fire-wood.(49)

Nevertheless, women continued to come before the justices with complaints against their husbands; and that these often poor, often illiterate wives were willing to use the power of the state to counter the physical power of their husbands is testimony of the degree to which they felt that it could serve their needs, however poorly. And in many cases, these women were successful in their attempts to exercise this limited power. Take the case of Josette Levasseur: in 1784 she charged her husband, Jean-Baptiste Racine, with "treating [her] ill." By the time the case came to trial, Racine had been in prison eight days, and Levasseur simply did not appear to prosecute any further. That this encounter with the justice system stopped Racine from beating her, however, is very doubtful.

Other violence

When we turn to the complaints that women made about violence that was not domestic, we get another picture yet again. As Nancy Tomes noted in her study of violence between men and women in London in the mid nineteenth century, there was a dramatic difference between violence of a husband against his wife, and violence of a man against another woman, both in terms of community standards, and the willingness of women to prosecute.(50) And indeed, with such prosecutions outweighing domestic violence prosecutions by more than three to one, while most violence against women probably took place in the home, it seems that women were far more willing to resort to the justice system when they were attacked by people from outside of their household.

Further, most of the complaints that women made to the justices involved men who had threatened or attacked them; but there was a significant minority of cases, around a fifth, that involved women complaining against other women. Thus, in 1815, Thomas McCord, the city's police magistrate, heard the cases of Josette Jolibois, wife of the carpenter Pierre Dubé, and Rose Maillé, wife of the mason François Lacroix: Jolibois accused Maillé of insulting her for the last three months, and that "les faux rapport ques fait la ditte Rose Maillé cause beaucoup de trouble dans le menage de la deposante", while Maillé accused Jolibois of threats. McCord settled the matter by having each of them enter into a peace bond for six months.(51) Still, the women who came before the justices were largely the victims of male violence. In most cases, this violence was the work of single men (72%); instances where women complained against more than one man, or a man and a woman, accounted for only 10% of cases. As well, women mostly brought complaints against people from their own social class: among cases where the social class of both the complainant and the defendant is known, about 70% involved people from roughly the same class, with 12% involving women prosecuting up the social scale, and 17% down.

The most important difference from the cases of spouse abuse, however, was the type of violence involved. Almost all of the complaints involved physical violence against the women themselves, though there were a few cases where women complained of violence against their children, or their husbands if they themselves were too ill to make a complaint. But the level of violence that was necessary before women were willing to bring their complaint before the official justice system was very different from the case of battered women. Scholars who have examined ancien régime criminal justice systems, especially in Europe, have postulated that in societies where violence was rife, people only brought cases of interpersonal violence before the official criminal justice system when the violence reached an especially intolerant level: violence that was especially brutal, that was prolonged, or that was perpetrated by people from outside of the local community. But in examining the complaints that women brought before the justices in the district of Montreal, it is much more difficult to make this sort of assertion. Certainly, some women complained of brutal violence: thus, for example, in 1820 Marguerite Babineau, a married woman from Vaudreuil, complained that Antoine Chenier, a Vaudreuil farmer, had given her "nombre de coups de pied et plusieurs coups de fourche, quoique la dite Marguerite Babineau fusse enceinte d'environ quatre mois". But complaints involving these sorts of extraordinary incidents, where the woman was pregnant, where she was badly beaten, where she was assaulted by a crowd, were relatively rare. Further, in direct contrast to the cases of domestic violence, there were few instances where women complained that they had been threatened or abused for a long time. The bulk of complaints, around 80%, described single incidents where the level of violence is difficult to characterize as brutal. Thus, Betsey Wood, the wife of William Thompson, a carpenter, complained in April 1815 that when she went to the house of Antoine Baudet dit Duford to ask for money that he owed her, he slapped her in the face. Josette Marcou, the daughter of Michel Marcou, complained against Marechette Carpentier for having "mis ces poing droit sur le nez la deposante en sacrant et menaçant". And Mariann Delinelle of Blairfindie complained of Antoine St. Onge of the same place that "ayant demandé des prunes a la dite déposante elle lui répondit qu'il n'en aurait pas, le dit Antoine St. Onge aurait prie la dite déposante par les bras et setant élancé plusieurs fois sur elle et laurait saisie il lui dit plusieurs injures il lui déchira ses vettement."

This is not to say that these women were complaining about trivial incidents. All of these complaints involved the use of or the threat of physical force against them, usually by men who were more powerful than themselves. Nor is it to argue that women were not subject to intense physical force in this society. What it suggests, rather, is that in countering physical acts by people other than their husbands, women were willing to use the criminal justice system as one of several front-line defences against the violence deployed against them. And this impression is strengthened when we consider the length of time that women took to lodge a complaint. Had women been trying to avoid using the formal justice system of the state, and relying instead on informal dispute settlement mechanisms, there would have been a significant delay between the incident itself and the complait. But two thirds of women complained either the day of the incident or the next day; and only a sixth waited four days or more.

Another important difference from domestic violence is in the results of these complaints, for the gender of the complainants seems to have played very little part in the outcome of their complaint. First, women complaining of personal violence were just as likely as men to pursue their complaints to the Quarter Sessions (31% of women, versus 30% of men), and just as likely to drop them in favour of a summary resolution. As well, while police and justices appear to have treated spouse abuse more seriously, when it came to women complaining of male violence, they reverted to the model of impartiality, though with perhaps still a slight bias in favour of female prosecutors. Thus, once before the formal court of Quarter Sessions, as Table 5 shows, there were no dramatic differences between the treatment of women and men in cases of non-domestic violence, though male defendants of female prosecutors were somewhat more likely to have a decision against rather than for them.



Female pros.,
Female def.

Female pros.,
Male def.

Male pros.,
Female def.

Male pros.,
Male def.

Against defendant





For defendant















Nevertheless, just because the justice system treated women who complained of violence in more or less the same fashion as men, does not mean that it treated them fairly. Consider the case of Marie-Louise Forbes, the wife of Augustin Proux, a labourer: in 1815, Forbes complained that Benjamin Castonguay had come to her house around 11:00 in the evening, "avec beaucoup des autres personnes dans une maniere tres deregle, et jette le roche avec violence contre la maison, et le dit Benjamin Castonguay a entre dans la dit maison du deposante par force malgre elle"; but the grand jury threw the case out even before it reached trial. Or the case of Rebecca Nags, the wife of a Montreal tavernkeeper. In 1810, Nags complained that Paul Jones, a carter, had struck her in the face and threatened her, threats which, in the absence of her husband, she believed that Jones might carry out. Nags persisted to a full trial in the Quarter Sessions, where Jones was found guilty; but he was convicted of the reduced charge of assault only, and the justices on the bench imposed only a nominal one-shilling fine. And in the higher criminal courts, the experiences of women who complained of more serious crimes of violence, especially sexual assault, were very different. Thus, Sandy Ramos' examination of sexual assault cases in the higher courts in Montreal shows that much as was the case in Canada later in the century, convictions were very rare: for the period from 1803 to 1843, only 5 of 49 rape cases, and 11 of 63 cases of attempted rape, ended in convictions.(52)


It seems clear from this brief examination of women who brought complaints before the justices of the peace that the criminal justice system, though undoubtedly patriarchal in its structure and composition, and not proactive in protecting women from their agressors, was more than just a source of oppression for these women; it was also a source of power, which in a society where women's power was limited and constrained could be a very important tool. However, the extent to which these women were able to use the criminal justice system as an effective tool varied considerably. First, it varied according to the type of complaint. Bastardy prosecutions, while they lasted, were very clearly a source of power for some women; domestic violence complaints, though they did allow battered women a certain respite from their abuses, also underscored their lack of power; and cases involving violence that was not domestic presented an ambiguous picture. And secondly, not all women had equal access to this system: though class and ethnicity played less of a role in shaping the decision of women to make a complaint before a justice than one might have expected, race and geographical location were far more important. Nevertheless, in all of these cases, women took the intiative to launch these complaints, and not in insignificant numbers; and to deny them that agency is to deny their very real attempts to protect themselves.

And more generally, what this overview suggests is that women were far from excluded from the public sphere in pre-industrial Lower Canada. André Lachance, in examining the criminality of women in New France, argued that their low rate of delinquancy resulted from their adherance to a traditional domestic role in the private sphere of the home.(53) And yet, these same Canadien women, or their daughters or their grand-daughters, seemed quite willing to enter the public sphere of the legal system in order to challenge those who had wronged them. But these women who entered the very public sphere of the criminal justice system, usually alone, to challenge those who had wronged them, suggest a situation that defies such a simple public/private dichotomy. A closer examination of the situations that women described in their complaints would flesh out this assertion: a woman egg-seller in the market being assaulted by a butcher; a woman cutting through a farmer's field to retrive her cows, and being attacked as a result; and many others. But such an examination lies beyond the scope of this study.

If we return to the case of Magdeleine Surprenant, we can see that it was unusual in that it involved a rural woman. But we must remember nevertheless that this was a real incident, that happened to a real person. To Magdeleine Surprenant, it did not matter that her trip to the Quarter Sessions in Montreal was unusual for a rural woman: she still made the complaint before Paul Lacroix in Laprairie, and still brought herself and her "fruit" across the ice in January 1791, to find herself denied satisfaction by the twelve men on the jury.


1. Case-files of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of the district of Montreal (ANQM TL32 S1 SS1, hereafter referred to as QSD), 21/11/1790; registers of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of the district of Montreal (ANQM TL32 S1 SS11, hereafter referred to as QSR), 1/1791; Programme de recherche en démographie historique, Registre de population du Québec ancien (hereafter referred to as PRDH) actes #s 662846, 349293, 667504.

2. The sample is based on the records of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace of the district of Montreal, both the case-files (the preliminary documents, especially depositions, arrest warrants, and recognizances, recording proceedings prior to an actual appearance in court) and the registers (recording proceedings once the case reached the formal court). For the period up to 1793, there were few case-files, but since the registers consistently recorded the name of the prosecutor, it was possible to get a reasonably-sized sample of cases involving woman prosecutors. From 1794, the registers no longer consistently recorded the name of the prosecutor, but more case-files have survived, which I was able to link to cases in the registers using the defendants' names. From 1800, the volume of case-files was such that I sampled every fifth year (1800, 1805, 1810, 1815, 1820, 1825, 1830). Information on female defendants and on male complainants and defendants is taken from a larger sample from the same records; see Donald Fyson, "Criminal Justice, Civil Society, and the Local State: The Justices of the Peace in the District of Montreal, 1764-1830" (Ph.D., Université de Montréal, 1995).

3. For a modern re-statement of this position, see John H. Langbein, "Albion's Fatal Flaws," Past and Present 98(1983): 96-120.

4. For example, Douglas Hay, "Property, Authority and the Criminal Law", in Douglas Hay et al., Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (Middlesex: Penguin, 1975): 17-63.

5. Among many others, Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: Norton, 1987); Elizabeth Pleck, Domestic Tyranny: The Making of Social Policy Against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Oxford UP, 1987); Anna Clark, Women's Silence, Men's Violence: Sexual Assault in England, 1770-1845 (New York: Pandora, 1986); and on Canada, Constance Backhouse, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto: Women's Press, 1991).

6. Susan Migden Socolow, "Women and Crime: Buenos Aires, 1757-97", Journal of Latin American Studies 12(1)(1980): 54.

7. See, among others, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, "Turning Points and the Relevance of Colonial Legal History", William and Mary Quarterly 50(1)(1993): 7-17; Jenny Kermode and Garthine Walker eds., Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Linda Gordon, Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence (New York: Viking, 1988).

8. Mary-Anne Poutanen, "Reflections of Montreal Prostitution in the Records of the Lower Courts, 1810-1842", in Donald Fyson, Colin Coates, and Kathryn Harvey eds., Class, Gender and the Law in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Quebec: Sources and Perspective (Montreal: Montreal History Group, 1993): 99-125; Kathryn Harvey, "Amazons and Victims: Resisting Wife-Abuse in Working-class Montreal, 1869-1879", Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 2(1991): 131-148; Karen Dubinsky, Improper Advances: Rape and Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

9. Garthine Walker and Jenny Kermode, "Introduction", in Kermode and Walker, Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England: 7-8.

10. Martin Ingram, "'Scolding women cucked or washed': a crisis in gender relations in early modern England?", in Kermode and Walker, Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England: 70-72.

11. Jean-Marie Fecteau, Un nouvel ordre des choses: la pauvreté, le crime, l'Etat au Québec, de la fin du XVIIIe siècle à 1840 (Montréal: VLB, 1989): .

12. This is the proportion found by Jim Phillips in eighteenth-century Halifax ("Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Early Halifax, 1750-1800", in Jim Phillips, Tina Loo, and Susan Lewthwaite eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law. Volume 5: Crime and Criminal Justice (Toronto: UTP, 1994): 188).

13. QSD 10/5/1799.

14. Jean-Marie Fecteau, "Between the Old Order and Modern Times: Poverty, Criminality, and Power in Quebec, 1791-1840", in Phillips, Loo, and Lewthwaite eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law. Volume 5: 297; Louis A. Knafla, "Aspects of the Criminal Law, Crime, Criminal Process and Punishment in Europe and Canada, 1500-1935", in Louis A. Knafla ed., Crime and Criminal Justice in Europe and Canada: Essays. (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1985): 7.

15. Fyson, "Criminal Justice, Civil Society, and the Local State": 360-374.

16. Ibid.: 374-384.

17. G. S. Rowe, "Femmes Covert and Criminal Prosecution in Eighteenth-century Pennsylvania," American Journal of Legal History 32(2)(1988): 138-156.

18. Richard Burn, The Justice of the Peace, and Parish Officer... 16th edition (London, 1788), volume 1: 185-214; Petere Laslett et al.eds., Bastardy and its Comparative History (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980). In eighteenth-century Sussex, bastardy cases represented almost 15% of the business of the Quarter Sessions (Stephen R. Wilson, "The Court of Quarter Sessions and Larceny in Sussex, 1775-1820", Criminal Justice History 7(1986): 75).

19. QSR 8/4/1767. Since Bauparlant had not yet delivered, the case was deferred to the next Quarter Sessions; at that point, Dondaneau produced a signed confession from Bauparlant stating that she had falsely accused him, and was discharged (QSR 6/7/1767).

20. "Unwed Mothers, Families, and Society during the French Régime", in Bettina Bradbury ed., Canadian Family History: Selected Readings (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1992): 33-65.

21. QSR 7/1785, 4/1781.

22. QSR 4/1790.

23. Backhouse, Petticoats and Prejudice: 41-42.

24. QSD 13/5/1788.

25. QSR 4/1785.

26. QSR 10/1792.

27. QSD 21/1/1794.

28. QSR 7/1792.

29. QSR 4/1782.

30. QSR 7/1787.

31. QSR 1/1795.

32. QSD 7/8/1815; QSR 10/1815.

33. Myra C. Glenn, "Wife-beating: The Darker Side of Victorian Domesticity", Canadian Review of American Studies 15(1)(1984): 19; Margaret Hunt, "Wife Beating, Domesticity and Women's Independence in Eighteenth-Century London," Gender & History 4(1)(1992): 18; Roderick Phillips, "Gender Solidarities in Late Eighteenth-Century Urban France: The Example of Rouen", Histoire Sociale / Social Historu 13(26)(1980): 329; André Lachance and Sylvie Savoie, "Violence, Marriage and Family Honour: Aspects of the Legal Regulation of Marriage in New France", in Phillips, Loo, and Lewthwaite eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law. Volume 5: 153-158.

34. QSD 1/3/1830.

35. QSD 2/1/1800.

36. From Hart's accounts, in NA RG1 E15A.

37. QSR 1/1815. The jury in the case, however, rendered a special verdict, "that they find the fact stated in the indictment to be true and that Marguerite Laurin the prosecutrix is the wife of the said defendant"; after hearing the attorneys on both sides, the justices interpreted this as a not guilty verdict, though they forced Bourgoin to enter a recognizance to keep the peace for a year.

38. QSR 1/1798, 4/1798.

39. Harvey, "Amazons and Victims".

40. NA MG8 F89 volume 6: 3657-3687; QSD 16/9/1820.

41. QSD 12/11/1825.

42. Gordon, Heroes of Their Own Lives.

43. QSD 5/9/1825.

44. QSD, Chartier de Lotbinière to Reid, 14/10/1809.

45. QSD 28/3/1820.

46. QSD 2/8/1820.

47. QSD 3/12/1830.

48. QSD 2/11/1825.

49. Montreal Herald 5/1/1822; gaol calendars 8/9/1821 and 2/1/1822 in NA RG4 B21.

50. Nancy Tomes, "'A Torrent of Abuse': Crimes of Violence between Working-Class Men and Women in London, 1840-1875," Journal of Social History 11(3)(1978): 336-337.

51. QSD 21/6/1815.

52. fficulties faced by victims of sexual aggression later in the century, see Backhouse, Petticoats and Prejudice; Dubinsky, Improper Advances; and Carolyn Strange, "Patriarchy Modified: The Criminal Prosecution of Rape in York County, Ontario, 1880-1930", in Phillips, Loo, and Lewthwaite, Crime and Criminal Justice: 207-251.

53. "Women and Crime in Canada in the Early Eighteenth Century, 1712-1759", in Knafla ed., Crime and Criminal Justice: 169.