Rights and the Ambiguities of Law: Infanticide in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South

Rights and the Ambiguities of Law: Infanticide in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South felicity turner In July 1867, a jury of inquest convened in Orange County, North Carolina, to investigate the death of a child recently born to a local single woman, Amy Whitted. The testimony provided at the inquest suggested a narrative familiar to many Americans who encountered infanticide throughout the nineteenth century. Whitted had initially "concealed being in the family way." Indeed, when she was "sick"--literally in the process of giving birth--she continued to deny her pregnancy, claiming instead that she had a toothache. Whitted only confessed that she had been pregnant after the newborn's cold corpse was discovered among her bedclothes and the messy afterbirth located on her sheets. By then, the infant was long dead. Community members called in the doctor to conduct a postmortem examination on the child's body and a coroner to convene an inquest into its death.1 Amy Whitted's narrative is typical of that of many women suspected of committing infanticide in the post­Civil War South. Whitted was unmarried, as were most women under investigation in relation to suspicious infant deaths. She was also African American, a "free woman of color" as she was described in the indictment, as were many of those suspected http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

Rights and the Ambiguities of Law: Infanticide in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South

The Journal of the Civil War Era, Volume 4 (3) – Aug 9, 2014

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807
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Abstract

felicity turner In July 1867, a jury of inquest convened in Orange County, North Carolina, to investigate the death of a child recently born to a local single woman, Amy Whitted. The testimony provided at the inquest suggested a narrative familiar to many Americans who encountered infanticide throughout the nineteenth century. Whitted had initially "concealed being in the family way." Indeed, when she was "sick"--literally in the process of giving birth--she continued to deny her pregnancy, claiming instead that she had a toothache. Whitted only confessed that she had been pregnant after the newborn's cold corpse was discovered among her bedclothes and the messy afterbirth located on her sheets. By then, the infant was long dead. Community members called in the doctor to conduct a postmortem examination on the child's body and a coroner to convene an inquest into its death.1 Amy Whitted's narrative is typical of that of many women suspected of committing infanticide in the post­Civil War South. Whitted was unmarried, as were most women under investigation in relation to suspicious infant deaths. She was also African American, a "free woman of color" as she was described in the indictment, as were many of those suspected

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Aug 9, 2014

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