Women in the 1641 Depositions

Of considerable interest here is the high frequency of ‘stript’, the most frequent collocate after the predictable ‘children’. As a means of enforcing death by exposure and a symbolic literal removal of all settlers’ property, stripping is a frequent occurrence in the Depositions, but it seems to have a particular salience in relation to wives. It is of particular interest that while being the second most frequent collocate for ‘wife’, ‘stript’ features decidedly lower than this on the list of collocates for ‘woman’. The stripping of women, it seems, only becomes newsworthy when it affects those women who ‘belong’ to someone. Given that women’s honour relied almost solely on their sexual reputation, and that part of men’s honour relied on sexual ownership, we might construe this emphasis on the stripping of wives as an indication that it represented a humiliation to the men whose property had been thus sullied. In the following extract, for example, the stripping of women is presented as on a par with the killing of men.