Privacy and Prurience: An Essay on American Law, Religion, and Women

Marie Ashe

Suffolk University Law School

June 1, 2011

American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 51, p. 461, 2011

In my studying of American law – in its relation to religion and to privacy and to women – the current bookends of my readings consist of two sets of texts: the first, certain writings from the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony; the second, certain writings from the United States Supreme Court of very recent years. The first set consists of reports and records generated in Massachusetts incident to the Antinomian Controversy of 1836-1838, particularly reports of the trials of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, and accounts of the “monstrous births” of each. The second set includes writings from year 2007: the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart (its most recent abortion decision), and the amicus briefs filed therein.

Examining and juxtaposing those sets of writings, this essay discloses striking resonances between the 17th-century and the 21st-century texts. It documents in each: religio-judicial prurience in examinations and constructions of female bodies; and disappearance of “privacy” as a protector of women’s autonomy and women’s liberty.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: Religion, Abortion, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Antinomian Controversy, Anne Hutchingson, Mary Dyer, Monstrous Births, Supreme Court, Gonzales v.Carhart, Privacy, Women, Autonomy, Liberty, Equality

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Date posted: October 1, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Ashe, Marie, Privacy and Prurience: An Essay on American Law, Religion, and Women (June 1, 2011). American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 51, p. 461, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1935705

Contact Information

Marie Ashe (Contact Author)
Suffolk University Law School ( email )
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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