Nature’s Cruel Stepdames

or, Matchlesse monsters of the female sex; Elizabeth Barnes, and Anne Willis, printed by Henry Goodcole, London 1637. this is my 300th post here and like to I think quite a special picture. Henry Goodcole  seems to have specialised in these collections of what we would now call lurid tabloid stories. On this occasion the first tale is that of a mother, Elizabeth Barnes who took her eight year old daughter Susan into the woods, and having watched her fall asleep proceeded to cut her throat with a carving knife. What is significant here is that the woodcut matches specifically the details in the pamphlet so we can be pretty confident of a date close to the year of publication.

What we have here is a common woman and child of the period in pretty standard clothes, the kind of thing that crops up rarely in English depictions. The woodcut is quite crude, but you can clearly see that both are dressed in waistcoats and petticoat and that Elizabeth has some kind of darted linen collar or band around her neck. Susan’s waistcoat has definite tabs at the waist, whereas I suspect that her murderous mother has a gored one though it’s impossible to tell for sure as her arm is in the way!

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2 Comments to “Nature’s Cruel Stepdames”

  1. Congratulations – I hope you have access to another 300..Your descriptions add to the enjoyment and information. Cheers!

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