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The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America

The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America Online

About twelve years ago, John Wood Sweet’s career took a new path. He began an experiment - an effort to research and write what was for him a new kind of book, a narrative history that would be rigorously grounded in fact but would read something like a novel. The book focused on a dramatic trial that unfolded in Manhattan in the year 1793 and its long, complex aftermath. The result was The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America (Henry Holt and Company, 2022), which follows a seventeen-year-old seamstress named Lanah Sawyer as she sought legal recourse after a sexual assault. A riveting historical drama of the first published rape trial in American history and its long, shattering aftermath. More than two hundred years later, so much has changed. So much has not.

The Sewing Girl's Tale received rave reviews in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere when it was published and has gone on to win some of the history profession’s highest honors, including the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history, the Parkman Prize, which is awarded each year to a book on American history distinguished by its literary merit, the Langum Prize in American Legal History, and the Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year.


John Wood Sweet is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former director of UNC’s Program in Sexuality Studies. He graduated from Amherst College and earned his Ph.D. in History at Princeton University. Much of his work has focused on colonial North America and the interactions of Native peoples, African Americans, and English settlers and how these colonial struggles over power and culture shaped the development of American political culture after the Revolution. His first book, Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North (Johns Hopkins University Press2003), was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Prize. Sweet has served as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Over the years, Sweet has received many honors and awards, including major fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center.  His most recent book is the award-winning The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America (Henry Holt and Company, 2022). 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024
12:00pm - 1:00pm
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Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
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