Murdered by His Wife. In March 1778, Joshua Spooner, a wealthy gentleman farmer in Brookfield, was beaten to death and his body stuffed down a well. Four people were hanged for the crime: two British soldiers, a young Continental soldier, and Spooner's wife, Bathsheba, who was charged with instigating the murder. She was thirty-two years old and five months pregnant when executed. Newspapers described the case as "the most extraordinary crime ever perpetrated in New England."
Bathsheba was the mother of three young children and in her own words felt "an utter aversion" for her husband, who was known to be an abusive drunk.
year before the murder, she took in and nursed a sixteen-year-old Continental
soldier who was returning from a year's enlistment under George Washington.
The two became lovers and conceived a child.
As the daughter of the state's most prominent and despised Loyalist, Bathsheba
bore the brunt of the political, cultural, and gender prejudices of her
day. When she sought a stay of execution to deliver her baby, the Massachusetts
Council rejected her petition, and she was promptly hanged before a crowd
of 5,000 spectators.
OUR SINCERE THANKS TO THE
FOR THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE AND FOR ACCESS TO THEIR REAL PLAYER FILES OF MS. NAVAS' PRESENTATION.
Law Library,1200 Court House, Boston, MA 02108
Murdered by His Wife, by Deborah Navas, (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999) provides a vivid reconstruction of this dramatic but little-known episode. Beautiful, intelligent, high-spirited, and witty,
The plots, the crime, the trial, and the aftermath are presented against a backdrop of revolutionary turmoil in Massachusetts.
On Wednesday, January 30, 2002 the Social Law Library of Massachusetts presented Deborah Navas' illustrated talk about her book, Murdered By His Wife.
The links below will take you to RealPlayer clips of her actual presentation. You may have to download RealAudio to listen.
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