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

10178 Words Jul 10th, 2015 41 Pages
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 criminal women; it explores the ways in which poverty, poor relief, low wages, and few employment opportunities for women often led to criminal activities and occupations, and increasing contact with the court system.
A broad discussion of poverty, poor relief, and the working poor provides crucial context for understanding some of the reasons why women might resort to proscribed behavior for relief. However, unemployment alone does not explain the engagement of women in criminal activities. Many convicted women during this time period were employed in such occupations as servants, and washerwomen, yet committed property crimes either to supplement an insufficient income or because they were in a convenient position to do so. For example,…

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