Legal Case: Elizabeth Johnson, Massachusetts Bay, December 5, 1642

"Unseemly practices"

The Essex County Court, meeting at Salem in Massachusetts Bay, reported the sentencing of a servant, Elizabeth Johnson, for a series of insubordinate and illegal acts.(1)

Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, [is] to be severely whipped and fined 5 li. [pounds] for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; also, for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly; and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read...

The record adds that Johnson was also punished "for 'spurning an ewe goat till both [mother and offspring?] died'; also for killing a pig and burying it."



  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 85-86, citing George Francis Dow, ed., Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County. . . (Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1911), vol. 1, p. 44.