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The First Woman to be Executed in America

Jane Champion of Jamestown-

Who was Jane Champion exactly? History doesn’t unfortunately remember her for who she was. She’s instead remembered for what she did. It’s not exactly sure when Jane first arrived at Jamestown, but historians suspect it could have been anywhere from 1619 to 1622. During this time frame a few different shipments of potential brides were sent to the colony for wealthy bachelors that needed to be married. One such bachelor was successful landowner, Percival Champion, who was all too eager to make Jane his bride.

It would seem that Jane, for whatever reason, was not happy with the marriage arrangement. In September of 1630, a love affair brewed between her and another colonist named William Gallopin. Like with most affairs, sex was involved and they were sneaking off constantly to be together in private. Eventually Jane discovered that she was with child and knew this simply could not be. She knew the outcome if anyone were to ever find out. This had to be taken care of. It was time to think outside of the box. Things grew to the point where she didn’t think she could get away with it for much longer. She went through great pains to conceal her pregnancy.

The child was born sometime in late 1631 or it’s possible it may have been early 1632. The exact date is unfortunately unclear to us. It was almost immediately afterwards that Jane and William murdered the child and buried it somewhere out of sight to hide the body. Let’s just say their crime was uncovered. Infanticide was an offense punishable by death. They were both sentenced to be hanged.

Read the minutes of the Jamestown court for yourself:

Wm. Gallopin & Jane Champion wife of Percival Champion Indicted by Gd. Jury for murder & concealing ye death of ye sd. Jane’s child supposed to be got by ye sd. Wm. Pleaded, found guilty by petty Jury & sentenced to be hang’d.”

Now, let’s look at a couple of details that are worth mentioning. If we look at the historical records, they clearly say that William Gallopin was sentenced to be hanged for being complicit in this crime. There’s not a single shred of evidence that it was ever carried out though. Did William get off the hook for some odd reason or is that piece of history just lost to us? Naturally, Jane Champion’s hanging is on record and has been accounted for. What about Jane’s husband? How did he deal with all of this? Did he respond to the love affair? What came of his feelings about his wife’s crimes? The lack of evidence on these matters is very surprising.

Based off further research, it would seem that by the time 1635 rolled around, Percival had moved to Elizabeth County. He and a business partner, John Slaughter had an enterprise there where they leased land to others in what would go on to become Warwick County, Virginia. As for Jane, after her execution, her body was taken and donated to be a cadaver for medical science. There is minor speculation about this as it was uncommon to bury someone convicted and executed in a sacred plot of land.

While Jane was the first woman to be executed in the United States, she certainly has not been the last. You’ll find that with most cases where women are on trial for murder, prosecutors will often try their hardest to portray the woman as a deviant. They’ll stereotype them and say that they are breaking the traditional gender roles that society has dictated for them. No one else is to blame for their actions, but themselves. Since Jane Champion’s execution in 1632, countless other heinous crimes have occurred throughout history. To date: 575 women have been executed in the United States out of the more than 15,000 executions that have taken place.

This is, but one of the many hauntingly true stories of a person who gave in to her darker instincts and ended another human being’s life. In this case it was before it even began. What of all those other stories out there left unspoken? Walk with us as we tred the streets and ride with us as we cruise open waters to hear those very stories. All you need to know lies waiting at: theghosttour.com

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