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  One Rape. Two Stories.

What Do You Think Happened?
The histories we can tell depend upon the sources that survive. The same event might look quite different when pieced together from official sources -- or from more personal sources like Martha Ballard's diary.

not Guilty / shocking indeed animation

This section of DoHistory will allow you to piece together the remarkable and chilling story of the rape of Rebecca Foster, the young minister's wife, by Joseph North, a local judge. As is the case in the 20th century, most 18th century rape cases were kept quiet. This one, however, made it to court. So we have the official court, church, and town records of what happened. But we also have the story as Martha recorded it in her diary.

What do you think happened? You can investigate both sides of the story...

'Not Guilty' / 'Shocking Indeed'

The Official Story

"Indictment of Joseph North for assault. Pleads not guilty."

(from the records of the Supreme Judicial Court)


Martha Ballard's Story

"mr Savage here, informs that mrs Foster has Sworn a Rape on a number of men amonge whome is Judge North. Shocking indeed!"

(from Martha Ballard's diary, October 1, 1789)


  One Rape. Two Stories. is long and involved with seventeen chapters on each side of the story. Try starting at the top of either side of the story (links above). The Table of Contents allows you to jump around the story. At the conclusion of your investigation you can read a historian's take on what happened from her book A Midwife's Tale, and see how the rape was depicted in the film A Midwife's Tale.

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Martha and a man-midwife | one rape. two stories.
'Shocking Indeed' 'Not Guilty'