Mary Goodell wins her case in 1811

In celebration of March being Women’s History Month, we have reached into the Special Collections' holdings to highlight a series of our rare items relating to Women, the Law and History.  This week’s highlight comes to us from the Francis Cabell Brown Collection.  This manuscript collection contains an assortment of 18th and early 19th century Justice of the Peace writs from Queens County in New York and Windham, Litchfield and New London Counties in Connecticut. 

This week’s feature is a Writ of Execution of Civil Judgment in the matter of Mary Goodell v. Charles Goodell, dated April 23rd, 1811. 


The transcription is as follows:

To Sheriff of the County of Windham to levy the goods, chattels, and lands of Charles Goodell for $13.23 or, if no goods available to satisfy the judgment, to seize Charles Goodell and place him in jail until he pay unto Mary Goodell the sum she received via judgment.  Dated the 23rd Day of April 1811. Signed John Holbrook, Justice of the Peace.

On the verso of the writ is inscribed how the amount of the judgment was satisfied, through the sale of many farm goods and products, including hay, oats, and cider.  The award to Mary Goodell is a significant amount which in today’s terms would be about $170.83. 

*A brief post-script on Mr. Goodell:  April 23rd, 1811 does not appear to be a good day for him.  His unknown shenanigans have gotten him into quite some trouble, as he is also the Debtor in several other Civil Judgments issued on that date.  On a positive note, Mr. Goodell had sufficient goods to cover his debts totaling $46.35, or $598.48 today, and did not have to serve any time in jail.

For further reading check out:

Women, money, and the law: nineteenth-century fiction, gender, and the courts, by Joyce Warren

For more information on the manuscript collections contact Special Collections at 202/661-6602 or email

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