Considering the idea of the Victorian woman as submissive, chaste and obedience, with a case study: Mary Townsend, who in middle of the century lived in Launceston, with her husband William. Mostly.

CAUTION– I hereby caution the public against harboring or giving credit to my wife Mary Townsend after this date she having left her home about three weeks ago without cause or provocation, leaving with me three young children. Should any person give such information as will lead to her whereabouts, they will greatly oblige. William Townsend, Quadrant. 19 June [1861] 1

But William needn’t have worried. His absent wife turned up a few weeks later:

SURETIES-Mary Ann Townsend was brought up by warrant to answer an information laid against her by her husband, William Townsend, of the Quadrant. For some time past both parties have separated, and on Monday night defendant having been informed that her husband was living with another woman went about half-post 11 o’clock to his house and effected an entrance by one of the windows. Hearing a noise in the passage he went out, and she rushed forward with a knife in her hand, at the same time threatening to stab him. He wrested the weapon from her, and after a short time she left the house.–The Magistrate ordered her to find two good sureties of £10 each to keep the peace for three months. 2

Ten years earlier, this advertisement appeared in the Launceston Examiner. 3

Mary was one of those Free, Female, Unmarried, Immigrants (aged 18, possibly from Ireland as most of them were)*. She went to work for a Launceston businessman and the following year married William. They lived in Wellington St.

George Shipley, lodging-house keeper, of Wellington-street, charged a neighbor named Townsend with assaulting him. This case occupied an immense time, about a dozen witnesses being examined, besides speeches from the learned gentlemen engaged, Messrs. Miller and Rocher. It appeared that Mrs. Townsend had smashed Shipley’s windows, and that the latter had struck her. The testimony on this point was conflicting; however, Townsend and another man attacked Shipley, and committed the assault complained of. The evidence in this case showed the utter recklessness of the persons giving it. There could not be any reasonable doubt that several persons perjured themselves, but the difficulty of proving the case prevents proceedings being instituted. 4

William established a business selling ginger beer, with optional rum, allegedly. After a few years, he moved his business to the Quadrant.

LARCENY –Jane Welsh was charged with having stolen a quantity of Coburg cloth, a petticoat, and a hook, altogether value 23s, the property of Wm. Townsend of the Quadrant. Mrs. Townsend in her evidence said that the prisoner came to her house on the evening of the 25th ultimo and stayed a short time; prisoner went into witnesses bedroom while she was there; about an hour after prisoner left, witness missed the above-mentioned articles from off a chest of drawers. The Bench discharged the prisoner there being no other evidence and the articles alleged to have been stolen not having been found. 5

Some after this William and Mary separated. I’m not certain what happened to William (possibly reconvicted), but their three children were left at New Town orphanage (with remark: Father deserted) and Mary moved onto greener pastures, literally: a farmer (with possible sheepstealing tendencies) out Evandale way.

On Friday week last two men named John Smith and John Hoggett, with Mrs Smith, and Mary Anne Townsend a woman officiating
pro tempore, as Mrs Hoggett, were spending the afternoon at Mr Parkinson’s Inn, Breadalbane, in a social and they considered very rational way. They returned to their homes about half five p.m. and were up to that time staunch friends, as firm and enthusiastic as unlimited beer and other liquors could make them. They resided next door to each other in tenements just within the boundary of the Evandale Municipality. Unfortunately Mrs. Smith evinced a decided preference to Hogget’s premises, and refused to go to her own. Smith and Hoggett both tried to persuade her to retire to her own home but with considerable vehemence she declined, and her husband retired disconsolate and jealous. It appears that he had not placed confidence in the sincerity of Hogget’s persuasions to Mrs Smith to leave, as he returned some time afterwards with a single barrelled gun loaded. Finding the door fastened he broke it open and presented the gun at Hoggett, who, in self defence struck up the muzzle of the gun and closed with Smith. Continued 6

There is an account of the trial but “District Constable Guthridge deposed that she [Mary] was unable to attend, having been confined on 14th inst. Her deposition taken at the Evandale Police Office was then read.” 7

However, after the 1860s, I can’t find any more mentions of her in the news, except for this one from 1893. 8

1 Cornwall Chronicle, 19 June 1861
2 Launceston Examiner, 1 August 1861
3 Launceston Examiner, 12 November 1851
4 Launceston Examiner 14 June 1856
5 Launceston Examiner, 14 August 1860
6 Cornwall Chronicle, 20 April 1867
7 Cornwall Chronicle, 25 May 1867
8 Launceston Examiner, 15 August 1893

* If you think of such ships as providing a supply of wives for the colonies, then Mary–who provided companionship to four unfortunate souls and children to three of them–was certainly value for money.

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