This is a biographical account of what happened to Maria Glenn in the early 1800’s. It is the story of her abduction and the lawsuits that resulted from it. It is a story of greed and the lengths people will go to in the pursuit of money.
Maria Glenn is a teenager, in the care of her aunt and uncle, in Taunton. She is very reserved, dresses modestly and is rarely out on her own. She is loved and nurtured by the Tucketts and her cousins. Shortly before her 16th birthday, Maria and her cousins are stricken with a potentially deadly virus and sent to a farm outside the city of Taunton to recuperate. The owners of the farm have a good reputation in the community and have taken in other children previously for this purpose. Mr. Tuckett is a lawyer and has investigated them thoroughly before leaving his children in their care. What Mrs. Bowditch fails to tell him is that one of her sons, James, also lives in the house. The Bowditches upon learning that Maria is expected to inherit a fortune upon the death of her mother and that she will soon be 16, concoct a plan to abduct Maria, after her birthday, and force her to marry James. They use threats to “convince” Maria to go along “willingly”. Maria is rescued before the ceremony can take place and her uncle decides to bring criminal charges against the Bowditches. What appears to be a straightforward crime turns into a legal battle that lasts for years and forces Maria to live in exile for almost 30 years.
I was quite frankly astonished by this story and the way that Maria was tormented throughout, not only by her abductors but afterward by the citizens of Taunton. Naomi Clifford has done a masterful job of researching the case and relating the shifting tides of the legal battle and public opinion. Even more surprising is the way in which Maria is able to bear up in the face of horrible false accusations. This is a great book for anyone interested in legal history or women’s history in England. Included in the book is the complete transcript of Maria’s statement of her abduction and the events leading up to it.
Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!