Martha Brown, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, and How We Keep Punishing Women

CW: sexual violence including rape

Around 2 AM on Sunday, July 6, 1856 in Dorset, Elizabeth Martha Brown waited for her husband John to return from a long night at the tavern. Upon his return, Martha inquired about her husband’s missing hat, followed by an accusation of infidelity with their neighbor Mary Davis. The confrontation turned violent when John struck Martha’s head before locating his whip and threatening her murder. Near their fireplace sat a hatchet used for breaking coal, which Martha used to chop at John’s skull multiple times until he fell dead. A few hours later, Martha woke…

Brian Scanlan

Brian Scanlan (he/him/his) is a Brooklyn-based playwright from Chicago // @brianscanlan // brianscanlan.com

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