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Scotch verdict : the real-life story that…
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Scotch verdict : the real-life story that inspired the children's hour

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A remarkable book about a tragic event in women's history. For those who know the play by Lillian Hellman called The Children's Hour", this book is the true history and court case behind it. And while Jane Prierie lives at the end of real life, it was a hard and costly life.

In both references, two women in early 1800's Edinburgh form a romantic friendship and set out to earn their living as mistresses of a girls' school. It was an alternative to marriage or to being a governess, and their future seemed bright. Lady Charlotte Gordon recommended their school to her friends, the gentry and upper classes of Edinburgh, and for about a year the school, housing both day students and boarding students, prospered. The two mistresses, Jane Prierie and Marianne Woods, are fleshed out from what historical records exist, and the author of this book, Lillian Faderman, writes a fictionalized account of how she and her partner, Ollie, travel to Edinburgh while on sabbatical one summer, to find out the truth of what happened in Edinburgh in 1810. Faderman gives a good historical accounting of romantic friendship between women and how it was permitted, encouraged, and seen as a normal thing. For the rest of society, and perhaps most romantic friends, the idea of a lesbian romance was not acknowledged or even known.

But in mid-November, 1810, a student a the school, who probably had a school girl's crush on Marianne Woods, begins to whisper about the "bed shaking" and one teacher lying on top of the other in the dormitories. The teachers came to one another to discuss school business at the only time they could, at night, and they probably massaged each other and they certainly whispered so they would not wake their students, but to a malicious, jealous 16 year old, those whisperings became the stuff of gossip.

Over the fall of 1810, Jane Cunningham, the half-East Indian granddaughter of Lady Charlotte Gordon, began her rumors of what she saw, incorporating two younger girls into the half-heard and half-understood whispers and movements, and in early November she went home to her grandmother and told her these rumors. Lady Charlotte was so aghast that not only did she pull her daughter from the school, she sent letters to her friends advising them to pull their daughters, too, due to terrible, immoral acts that were being committed by the teachers.

And so in one day, all the children were pulled without explanation, and the two teachers were ruined. They brought suit against Lady Charlotte, and Ms. Faderman has waded through the court documents and added edited versions of them to bring the embarrassing and humiliating testimony to life. A brave feat for anyone, and it brings to light the prejudices that have continued to this day: against independent women, against lesbians, and in support of the upper classes.

Truly a book to read through if doing research for producing this play, or as a way to explore the life of women during this time." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
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