Monday Dec 27 Catharine & Ann washed and I have
commenced my dresses early for Julia
Mr & Mrs Swain & his sister came unexpectedly
into the other part of the house this afternoon
and the evening I have been there Mrs A L
& Mrs S Ames have been to Sharon this afternoon
Mrs Ames says all the reports about Mr Clarke
abusing his wife are true and he has broken her jaw
in three places He is in the house of correction
Almira Ames and Sarah Lothrop Ames rode to neighboring Sharon and back today and returned with a tale of domestic violence. A Mr. Clarke had been put in jail for beating his wife. Evelina listened closely to the news, lingering over the specifics of the injuries he inflicted on poor Mrs. Clarke, whose jaw was broken in three places. That’s a serious injury in any period, but in 1852 the capacity for proper repair of such breakage was limited at best. Orthopedic surgery was in its infancy and wouldn’t improve until doctors learned more about bone breakage during the Civil War.
The “house of correction” which housed the abusive Mr. Clarke was, simply put, the local jail. In Massachusetts the terms “jail” and “house of correction” were and are used interchangeably. Elsewhere the term “house of correction” was more narrowly defined to mean a holding place for people who were awaiting trial, or for vagrants – not a residential prison, in other words. However it may be defined, it meant at least temporary detention behind bars for Mr. Clarke.
Historians differ on society’s treatment of domestic violence in the nineteenth century. Most people believed that the government – even the local government – had no role in domestic concerns. But people also believed strongly in the moral authority of women and were loathe to tolerate physical transgressions against the weaker sex. Thus was Mr. Clarke put behind bars.
Other than this news, life at the Ames compound was trotting along as usual. It was laundry day – the last one that we shall read of – and the Irish servants were busy at their wash tubs, hot water boiling on the stove. Evelina sewed, of course, and got some pieces ready for Julia Mahoney, the dressmaker. Old Oliver noted that “in the evening there was a little snow.”