According to Wikipedia which in turn cites p 63, “Schoenfield, Mark (1997), "Waging battle: Ashford v Thornton, Ivanhoe and legal violence", in Simmons, Clare (ed.), Medievalism and the Quest for the "Real" Middle Ages, Routledge, pp. 61–86, ISBN 978-0-7146-5145-3”,

Because of the nature of the evidence women were not permitted to witness the trial, [22]

I am wondering what specifically about the evidence was considered so unsuitable as to prompted exclude women from observing. For example, was it the fact that it involved exhibiting the male defendant’s blood-stained undergarments? Or simply because the charges included the sexual assault of a woman which would naturally then be discussed at length in the witnesses’ evidence?

Regardless, what was the judicial rationale, or the rationale behind the pre standing mechanisms in the first place that were used to so exclude them, of preventing women from being exposed to such evidence? Are there any relevant provisions or remarks that make reference to the logic of relevant cultural considerations?

1 Answer 1


The subject of women spectators in courts in the nineteeth century is covered in a paper by Linda Mulcahy (dept. of Law at LSE) Watching Women: What Illustrations of Courtroom Scenes Tell Us about Women and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth Century

Concerns about the debasing influences of the trial on the female mind were also reflected in contemporary legal reasoning which justified judges clearing the court of women when their innocence was likely to be compromised. After the creation of secular divorce courts in 1858, judges regularly ordered women and children out of the court or heard cases involving `unnatural practices' in camera. Indeed, it was only after women became jurors in the 1920s that judges stopped clearing female spectators from criminal courtrooms when evidence of even a mildly sexual nature was submitted.

There's a reference from there to:

C. Graham, `The History of Law Court Architecture in England and Wales; The Institutionalization of the Law' in SAVE Britain's Heritage, Silence in Court: The Future of the UK's Historic Law Courts (2004) 36-47

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