The Between Poverty And Crime, Poor Relief, And The Working Poor

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Of the more than 11,000 women transported as convict labor to the Atlantic colonies, all but a small fraction were impoverished. Within the metropole, these poor women were viewed as a burden on society, often dependent upon parish rolls and private charity, when available, for a subsistence living. While the general public was broadly sympathetic to the plight of widows and sometimes single mothers, such sympathy disappeared when women engaged in criminal activity. It is this link between poverty and crime that will be explored in this chapter, with a particular focus on the ways in which women engaged in criminal activities. This chapter takes a thematic approach over a long period of time when society changed little for poor and…show more content…
Such activity by the familiar worked to support a common fear: that crime would be committed by the socially inferior employee against the socially superior employer, fueling public concern. The majority of women who were tried and sentenced to transportation, however, did not appear to have been engaged in regular employment and apparently relied on theft-related crimes for a subsistence living. A Solution for Poor and Idle Women In some, this enterprise will minister matter for all sorts and states of men to work upon; namely, all several kinds of artisans, husbandmen, seamen, merchants, soldiers, captains…; yea old folks, lame persons, women, and young children, by many means which shall still be ministered unto them, shall be kept from idleness, and be made able by their own honest and easy labor to find themselves, without surcharging [via charity] others. —Richard Hakluyt, A Discourse on Western Planting Hakluyt’s Discourse on Western Planting, Written in the Year 1584 is one of the first works to reveal an unease that may have been broadly felt within England: that if the English did not expand in the Americas, then Spain and Portugal would continue to expand their empires to the exclusion of Britain. The fear was that England would not “be able to thoroughly to knowe the riches and comodities of
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