chapter  Chapter 5
16 Pages

The Peril of Bastard Infanticide

WithLawrence B. Goodheart

In this chapter, the primary suspects were young, unmarried women—white, black, and Indian—on the edge of respectability who desperately sought to conceal bastard births that were an outrage to sexual norms. Five women were hanged: Sarah Bramble, a servant, in 1753 was the last white female and the last woman executed for bastard infanticide in Connecticut. In spite of the efforts by jurist Zephaniah Swift to modify the law, Clarissa Ockry, in 1808, and Sarah Freeman, in 1844, were the last women sentenced to death for this crime. Their executions, however, were commuted by the legislature. Like Ann Negro, these two vulnerable African American women forced the issue of gendered capital punishment to the extreme.