Is This the First All-Female Jury in New-World America?

Dateline: Chester County, outside Philadelphia, in 1689: I don’t know, but it looks like it’s the first one in the Quaker community.

It’s the case of Mary Tuberfield, an indentured servant, who claimed she got pregnant in a boat on the Delaware River.

Let’s get right into the court records.

August 27, 1689

Modernized transcription begins:

The grand Inquest’s presentment of Mary Turberfield and John Eldridge

We of the Grand Jury present Mary Turberfield to Nathaniel Evans [a judge] for that about the beginning of the 3rd month [May] last, she committed fornication with John Eldridge in a boat upon the [Delaware] River and confesses herself by the said act with child and in confirmation of the truth hereof the said John Eldridge confesses the same, whom for that cause we likewise present;

Upon which they are both called to the bar, where they made their appearance and upon her farther confession and submission a jury of women whose names are underwritten ordered to inspect the said Mary Turberfield’s condition;

The names of the jury impaneled:

Lidia Wade, Sarah Usher, Hester Rawlence, Mary Carter, Jane Hawkes, Mary Hodskins, Elizabeth Musgrove, Mary Bayliss, Elizabeth Hastings, Mary Little, Jane Moulder, Anne Saunderlaine;

They make return that they cannot find she is with child, neither be they sure she is not;

Whereupon her master was ordered to defray this present court charge and to see her forth, coming at the next county court;

John Eldridge confesses the fact in open court and humbly craves (by his petition) the favor and mercy of the court

Judgment is hereupon awarded that he pay three pounds to the governor for a fine and to remain in the sheriff’s custody till paid and to give security that if she prove with child according to time to defray all cost and charge that may accrue to her master thereby as also to discharge the township of the child.

Transcription ends.

October 8, 1689

Modern transcription begins:

Mary Tuberfield being called to the bar and being further examined concerning her indictment the last court declared notwithstanding her testimony to the last court that she was with child by John Eldridge, she does now freely declare the contrary and submits to the mercy of the king and governor;

Ordered that Albertus Hendrickson and John Child see her forth coming in the afternoon

Mary Tuberfield was called to the bar and judgment awarded to receive 10 stripes upon her bare back well laid on, at the common whipping post at Chester.

The aforesaid John Eldridge was called to the bar and pleaded guilty; whereupon judgment was awarded that he should pay a fine of three pounds and all the court charges and be discharged.

Transcription ends.

It looks like she was not pregnant, but she got ten stripes, while Eldridge paid a fine.

It looks like Mary, claiming she was pregnant, wanted to trap Eldridge, or maybe not. Maybe she really believed she was pregnant.

As far as the lashes go, the Quaker judge was following his times, which followed the Bible in Deut. 25:1-3. But I’m glad we moved on.

In the bigger perspective, it was interesting to see an all-female jury taking care of a “woman’s issue.” It’s the first one in the court records that I could find.

One reason I post these articles about these people’s messy lives is to see ourselves in them and to offer redemption when we blow it.


Record for the Courts of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Begun the 13th of September, 1681, Ending the 10th day of March 1696/7, pp. 166-67, 173, 184.

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