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Trove Tuesday – Naming and Shaming

What were the wives of Singleton up to in December 1848? Why were they deserting their husbands? Of course their husbands said it was ‘without cause’.

Public Notice, Maitland Mercury, Wed. 20 December 1848, p. 3.

These two notices appeared in the Maitland Mercury on 20 December 1848. They provide very different reading to the Public or Family Notices of today’s newspapers. While I don’t know what happened to the Witton family, I do know what happened in the Head family as Henry (1810-1877) and Elizabeth (1813-1894) are my 4 x great grandparents.

Elizabeth and William Levett (seated) with family

The couple, together with their four daughters arrived in Australia in 1842 as Bounty Scheme immigrants. By 1843 the family had settled in the Singleton area. Another daughter Eliza was born in that year.

We will never know the stresses and strains on the couple’s relationship, particularly one that must have been suffering from physical and cultural dislocation. Early Singleton was a very different place to Ore in Sussex, where both Henry and Elizabeth’s families had lived for generations.

What we do know is that by the end of 1848 Elizabeth was living with William Levett, a former convict. During the goldrushes the couple moved to Sofala and then to the Lambing Flats district (now Young) where William selected land.

Elizabeth’s five daughters stayed with their father.

Elizabeth is not my only x great grandmother to leave her husband and large family. Elizabeth Carlisle and Jane Wright both left their families. Their husbands put similar public notices, designed to shame the women, into the local newspapers. In Elizabeth Carlisle’s case, the notice her missionary husband placed was far more damning .

That is another story.

7 thoughts on “Trove Tuesday – Naming and Shaming Leave a comment

  1. The life of women in those days was very hard. I am researching my grandmother’s several husbands and partners with great interest. It’s amazing what you can find in newspapers, divorce records etc. I keep finding new information to add to the story and I think what an amazing life she led.

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  2. Thanks for showing us an example of the public shaming of women who did not conform to society’s norms, or to possibly abusive husbands. My ancestor Caroline married in Nottingham in 1849 but emigrated to Victoria with her two children and siblings in 1851. Two years later her husband announced in newspapers that he had also arrived in Victoria and wanted to find her. Trouble is she had already shacked up with my ancestor John and had a child to him. Ooops!
    Looking forward to further posts on this topic. 🙂

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    • I will certainly be writing about these women in greater detail. I wonder if the women left their families because they were in a new land and felt free of former societal constraints – or was it the same lack of constraints that exacerbated their husband’s controlling behaviours?

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