This week on The Historians Podcast, John Sweet is author of The Sewing Girl’s Tale, the story of the first published rape trial in American history. In 1793, Lanah Sawyer, a 17-year-old seamstress, charged she had been raped. The defendant was “a very great rake,” the scion of two wealthy Dutch families who lied about his identity and took her to a brothel and sexually assaulted her. Alexander Hamilton was among the many well-connected lawyers who represented the defendant in various aspects of the case.
Sweet researched Sawyer’s decision to charge Henry Bedlow with rape, leading to a raw courtroom drama in the city of New York, riots in the streets, and public debate over class privilege and double standards.
Author John Sweet is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the former director of that university’s interdisciplinary Program in Sexuality Studies.
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