This page offers suggestions for assignments that can complement or extend students’
analysis of the “Taking the Trade” documents and/or Cornelia Dayton’s 1991 William
and Mary Quarterly article on the abortion case. We invite instructors and readers
to submit successful, classroom-tested assignments and additional ideas for
inclusion on this page.
If you have access to the O.E.D. (Oxford English Dictionary) online (often, through your university or college library’s electronic databases), look up the noun trade. Identify the meaning(s) that are most applicable to the Grosvenor-Sessions case. Study the usages cited from 18th-century authors and beforehand. Is the meaning of the noun as used by Pomfret youths in the 1740s absent here? If so, why do you think the compilers of the O.E.D. might have missed this particular meaning?
Compare the other abortion cases (or fragments) available on this website to the documents in the Grosvenor-Sessions case. How do the circumstances, wording, and outcomes vary?
Ideas for Internet Sleuthing and Research Papers
1. What stories and debates about abortion, miscarriage, courtship, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies circulated in the burgeoning magazines printed in mid- and late-18th-century North American and Britain? Most of these periodicals have been digitized, and are accessible on-line through the Pro-Quest electronic database American Periodical Series (APS). Hint: Limit the search to "Citation and abstract" (vs. full text), before 1800, and oft-discussed topics such as marriage or courtship.
2. Early American Newspapers, a Readex on-line database (part of America’s Historical newspapers), contains digitized issues of full runs of most of the newspapers published in the 18th-century British colonies. Were stories about abortion, sexual coercion (often called ravishment), or courtships gone awry frequently included in these weekly newssheets that were typically four pages long? Try keyword searches. (Note: it greatly helps to limit your search by date or era, article type, language (English), and region. Warning: you will find that "abortion" was often used as a metaphor in partisan, political commentary.)
3. Read the short 1797 novel, The Coquette, by Hannah W. Foster. Study the introduction (in the Oxford Univ. Press paperback edition) by Prof. Cathy N. Davidson who will tell you how the fictional story parallels the real-life story of Elizabeth Whitman, a young poet who hailed from Hartford, CT. Write an essay comparing the ethical and religious dilemmas facing Sarah Grosvenor and Eliza Wharton/Whitman. [Note: Davidson’s Intro. is available on Google Books, and full-text versions of the novel can be found on-line.]
Page Created: December 29, 2008
Last Modified: December 30, 2008