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The following program is produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. We present the American woman in fact in fiction from Colonial Times to the present day. A series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard and produced by Virginia Maynard and Charles Levy part 1. Since. The early Calvinist theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay settlements was deeply rooted in the doctrines of the Old Testament and as such was strictly authoritarian. There was no place in the rigid doctrines of the Puritans for the principles of equality or freedom of thought or action for human beings. Man was born to sin as the sparks fly upward and must be sternly controlled and compelled if necessary to walk in the paths of righteousness. At the top of society was a little clique of the elect the chosen of God who determined what was right or wrong for the unregenerate masses
and maintained the authority to enforce their decision. There is a twofold liberty said John Winthrop governor first. The liberty of nature which men shares with the beasts. This is an equal liberty toward good and evil and is to be rooted out. The second to our civil liberty is the proper end an object of authority and cannot subsist without it. It is a liberty to that only which is good just and honest what was good just and honest of course was decided by John Winthrop and the other Puritan elders who also affix the penalties were deviated from their decrees. Women under the system of government suffer even more severely than did men. Since woman was the direct descendant of Eve who had brought sin into the world she must be even more closely controlled and curbed than man. It was only under the guidance of a good husband that woman could truly rise above her predisposition to evil. Then there she behaved admirably. She could achieve something like his status in grace.
Governor Winthrop says the woman's own choice makes a man her husband. Yet being so chosen he is her lord and she is to be subject to him. True wife a common source objection her honor and freedom and would not think her condition safe and free but in subjection to her husband's authority. Such a woman was a pearl without price as was the saintly wife of the Reverend Thomas Shepherd. She limited her readings to her husband's notes which he mused on every week says Winthrop commenting on her untimely death. She had an excellent seat to reprove for sin and discern the evils of man but woe be unto the woman who departed from such paths of righteousness. There was a mistress Hopkins the wife of the governor of Connecticut who lost her understanding and reason Winthrop says and was brought to Boston to try what means was to be had for her. She had grown into a sad infirmity he goes on by giving herself wholly to reading and
writing and had written many books. If she had attended to her household affairs and such things as belonged to woman and had not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men whose minds are stronger. She had kept her wits and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place that God had sent her. Her husband he concludes saw his error too late. In this atmosphere the offenses of women against church and state were drastically punished and the ministers came out of their studies to witness the confinements in the stocks. The clap sticks upon the tongue the whippings and hangings and pressings to death which they had ordain adultery which involved the inheritance and property laws was punishable by death until sixteen thirty eight when the penalty was changed to a whipping and banishment. Nathaniel Hawthorne had 1850 looking back on this time devoted his greatest novel
to the subject of such an offender against the Puritan code Hawthorne's knowledge of colonial history was extensive and he has left mankind a compelling document of the somber life of a woman during the Puritan regime. Let us now turn back some 300 years in time and listen to the voice of Hester Prynne as she tells her story of The Scarlet Letter. A throng of bearded men in sad colored garments and grey steeple crowned hat you know mixed with women some wearing hoods and others bareheaded was assembled before wooden edifice the door of which was heavily timbered and studded with iron spikes. The place was a prison lane in Boston at the time. Somewhere about the mid part of the seventeenth century in the early days of
the American colony of Massachusetts Only somehow the country after the great Elizabeth sat upon the throne of England. All eyes in the throng were intently fastened on the iron clamped oaken door of the prison. Behind that door stood I with a babe in my arms and just before me the grim and grisly presence of the town beating a sword by his side and his staff of office in his hand who represented in his aspect the whole business of verity of the Puritan code of law which it was his business to administer. Suddenly the door was flung open and a shaft of blinding sunshine lighted up the interior of the jail to be heretofore acquainted only with the gray twilight of a dungeon or rather dark some apartment of the prison in turned aside her face from the two vivid light of day. And I for a moment shrank back into the grey twilight of the hall. Looking forth from my blessid concealment upon the faces of my fellow townsman
and former neighbors. Whom I could see quite plain even to the grim rigidity of their countenance and the voices of those closest to the door came to my ears with great distinctness. Why I didn't get my money. It would be greatly to me who if we women being about your church members in good repute should have the handling of such malefactors as Britain. He did up her judgment before US fighter no hit together. When she came up with Matty I trow know RA it is because of the Reverend Dinsdale God pastor takes it very grievously to heart that I just scandal should have come upon his congregation. The magistrate a God fearing gentleman but at the very least they could have put the brand of iron on his matter. There would have winced at that I warrant. But she will seek out what they put on the bodies of her god
who I look like heathenish adornment and so walking the streets as brave as ever on the cover of the market she will be always do no harm. Why do you talk of marks and brands whether on the bodice of her gown with the flesh of her foreign. This woman has brought shame upon us all and ought to die or not love her and then the magistrate to have made it of no effect. Thank themselves of their own wives daughters go to be honest with why you would woman she would bring to the whole computer the gallows just the hardest word. Mark the soft hearted man. You know if we get them right and I run a rest
already written all over I just got an e-mail message you're dead right now to the sun shining. I don't know your ass off at the loo drawing me forward to the threshold of the prison door. Lag now stood fully revealed before the throne. My first impulse upon realizing this was to clasp the infant more closely to my brain thereby to conceal the mark which was fastened into my gun. However judging that one token of my shame would be poorly served to hide another. I left the child upon my own and holding my head high I repelled the hand of the beetle and stepped forward into the open air of my own free will. I think I heard my neighbors with a hearty smile and looked calmly around at the townspeople of Boston throwing back my shoulders the better to display this kind of letter to their view. The Beatles stretched forth his official staff and opened a lane through the crowd of spectators.
And attended by the procession of stern browed man and unkindly visaged women and curious schoolboys who my ordeal had aborted a half holiday. I followed him to the place appointed for my punishment. It was no great distance from the prison to the marketplace. Yet in my experience it seemed a journey never to be ended. For despite my outward calm. I underwent an agony from every footstep of those who throng beside me as though my heart had been flung into the street for them to spurn and trample upon. Nor did they attempt to restrain their voices and their remarks about me as I progress in reducing the prison upon my life. She's more the high and mighty medium ever I've got to see that when you get them down in the world. I believe she got the letter she had good. You should meet her that's what you did real woman before this phrase and I think contrive
such a way of showing me why I got it what it did but didn't dampen the faces of God the magistrates that make up right out of what they eat worthy gentleman. When each if we stick to that in history which you think you show that it was you know it's so seriously. Oh you know what right I got my own romantic final to make a bigger one. Do you not just. Did you not I'm going to talk about you now dinner. Oh. You know nater there was a provision I like marvelous and most of all that the sufferer shall never know the intensity of what he endures by its present torture. But chiefly by the paying that rankles after the so I pass through this portion of my audio until I came to the scaffold of the pillory at the western extremity of the marketplace knowing that in my case it had been judged I should not have to undergo the gripe about the neck and
confinement of the head of that instrument of discipline. I ascended the wooden steps turned about and displayed myself to the surrounding multitude at about the height of a man shoulders above the street. On the balcony of the meeting house looking down upon the platform that the governor and several of his councillors a judge a general and the ministers of the town. Accordingly at this point the crowd became somber and great. I had fortified myself to encounter the venomous stabs of public controversy and insult. But there was a quality much more terrible in the solemn silence now and in the wake of those thousand unrelenting eyes fastened upon me and concentrated upon my bosom. I longed to behold all those rigid countenances contorted with scornful merry men. And each man. Each woman. Each little shrill voice child burst into one roar of laughter. I might have repaid them with a disdainful smile. But under
this leaden inflection which was my doom to endure. I felt at moments as if I must needs shriek out with the full power of my lungs. And cast myself from the scaffold down upon the ground or else go mad. There were intervals as I stood there. And. Seemed to vanish before my eyes. My memory was preternaturally. And kept bringing up other scenes in this rough street of a little town on the edge of the western wilderness. Other places than those places lowering the bar making the brims of those people around had. I remembered my schooldays. My native village in Old England. My father's face with its bald brow and Reverend white beard rolled over the old fashioned Elizabeth and what. My mother used to do with his look of heedful an anxious look. I saw my own face. Glowing with girlie's beauty and illuminating the interior of the dusky mirror in which I didn't want to gaze at.
And then another continent. Of a man stricken in years. A pale being scholar like a disease with eyes dim and blue by the lamplight that had served them to pour over many ponderous books. Yet gifted with a strange penetrating power when it came to reading the human soul. This last figure was likely to form with the left shoulder a trifle higher than the right. And Nick. Still in connection with this Michigan scholar. Came the picture of a wedding journey to a continental city with Toll grey houses and huge cathedral. Ancient India. Then at last came the marketplace of the Puritan settlement. With all the townspeople assembled and leveling their stern regarded history Priyan. As myself. Who stood on the scaffold of the pillory and infant on my arm and the letter A in scarlet fantastically embroidered with gold thread upon my bosom.
Could it be true. I clutched the child so fiercely to my breast that it sent forth a cry. I turned my eyes downward to the Scarlet Letter. Even touched it with my finger. You. This was reality. Well and then. From this intense concentration I was at Linc distracted by discerning on the outskirts of the crowd a figure which irresistibly took possession of my thoughts. It was a man small in stature with a brood busy and with a remarkable intelligence and his features. Dressed in a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume. It was evident as well that one of this man's shoulders rose higher than the other. And the features were well known. To me. Yet such was my abstraction that I did not at once comprehend the fact of his presence here before me. His reality was lost in the dreamlike quality of the scene. Yet of a sudden as his eyes met mine. I told him stop and at once I
was aware this was no specter. His eyes darkened with a powerful emotion which he instantaneously controlled however and seeing the look of horrified recognition in my eyes he raised his finger and laid it on he then made his way forward through the crowd to the bottom of the scaffold. Quite close to me. And without looking again toward where I stood he addressed himself to the townsmen next to him. I pray you good. Who is this woman. Well Farai she said up to the public shame you must needs be a stranger in this region France he would surely have heard of Misters Hester Prynne and her evil doings. She raised a goodly scandal invested in it was Judge. You say truly I am a stranger to be no wonder. Surely against my will. I have met with grievous mishaps by sea and land and been held long in bonds among the heathen folk of the southwest. Will it please you that photo tell me of Hester Prinz
have a name like me. Of this woman's offenses and what is brought of yonder scaffold and truly friend and me thinks it must gladden your heart after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness to find yourself in a land where iniquity is searched out and punched in the side of rulers and people as here in our godly New England. Young woman said You must know was the wife of a certain learned man English by birth but he would long dwelt in Amsterdam when some good time a gone he was minded to cross over and dance just not with us of the Massachusetts for this purpose he sent his wife before him remaining himself to the campus necessary figures. Mary good sir in some two years or less that this woman has been a drummer here in Boston. No tidings have come of this learned gentleman asked the prince and his young wife look you being left to her own misguided I can see fuel sold in it a man as you speak of should have lived and this stool and his books.
And who by all favor us maybe the father of yon debate which Mr. Spain is holding you know well a true friend in that matter remain of the riddle and the Daniel who shall expend it as yet. I want. Madam Hester absolutely refuses to speak and the magistrates have laid their heads together and write peradventure the guilty one stands looking on at a sad spectacle unknown of my own and forgetting that God sees you. The learned man should come himself to look into the mystery it behooves him while still the like. Now good sir. Our Massachusetts magistrate be thinking themselves of this woman is youthful and fair and doubtless was strongly tempted to her fall. And then moreover as is most likely her husband may be at the bottom of the sea. Well they have not been told to put in force the extremity of our righteous law against or the penalty thereof is death but in their great mercy and tenderness of heart. They have doomed mistress pretty and to stand only a space of
three hours on the platform of the pillory and then and thereafter for the remainder of her life where a mark of shame about her bosom. Why Sinton its laws she will be a living Symon again seen until the ignominious letter be engraved upon a tombstone. It irks me nevertheless that the partner of our iniquity should not at least stand on the scaffold by his side but he will be no. He will be no. I was transported in front of the numbing effect of this conversation by the consciousness that my name was being called in a loud and solemn tome from behind me. I have mentioned before that directly over the platform on which I stood was a kind of open gallery appended to the meeting house where sat the governor and his assembly turning and lifting my head I beheld the famous John Wilson. The eldest clergyman of
Boston standing now and addressing. My pastor. The Reverend author Dimsdale. The young minister who had come over from England not long since. Bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest life. This latter was a person a very striking aspect with a. Large melancholy eyes. And a mouth which expressed both nervous sensitivity and a power of self-restraint. He's eloquence and religious fervor had already given him the earnest of high eminence in his profession. The freshness and purity of his thought affecting many people as they professed like the speech of an angel. The poor young. I have striven with my younger brother here under who is preaching you have been privileged to see it. I have so little I say Capus wait this God knew
you that he should deal with you here in the face of heaven and before all these wise and upright people. As touching the bio ness and likeness of your knowing your natural temper better than I he could the better judge what all of humans to you whether of tenderness Tara such as might prevail over your hardness and obstinacy in so much that you should no longer hide the name of him who tempted you with his leavers. But he opposes to me with a young man's oversaw his soul beyond wise beyond his years. That it will wrong in the very nature of woman to also deny open secrets in such a broad daylight. I did the presence of so great a multitude truly as I sought to convince him. The shame lay in the commission of the sea in and not in the showing of it.
What say you once again brother doomsday to must it be thought old I am still dealing with this. Pause. Speak to the woman my brother it is a moment to this song and then a formal notice to the I don't like you knows China Jersey is exhorted to confess the truth as you will Father Wilson has to go here start the good man says and see is the accountability under which I labor. If Garfield stood before the eyesores peace and that thy earthly punishment will therefore be made more effectual to salvation. I charge the to speak out the name of a fellow sinner and fellow sufferer. He not silent for any mistaken pity and tenderness for him.
Believe me Hester though he were to step down from a high place and stand there beside the on Die pedestal of seeing yet better world itself than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can by silence do for him except to tempt him. Yeah compel him as it were to add hypocrisy to see in heaven how to grant at v and open ignominy. That thereby work out and Open triumph over the evil within the under saddle without. Take heed how they will deny us to him who by chance has not the courage to grasp it for himself. The bitter but wholesome Cup that is now presented to the lips. Better
got to come from brother to go but I cannot take it all round it and would that I might endure his agony as well as mine. He might speak and give your child a father. I will not speak and my child must seek our Heavenly Father. She will never know when earthly one she will not speak. One strength and generosity of a woman's. She will speak.
The US has to print in this opening section from Nathaniel Hawthorne's scarlet letter. But those who are not familiar with the story we note here that the hump shouldered stranger who appeared on the scene during Hester's punishment was her husband and the young minister author Dimsdale who made the plea that she speak out the name of her fellow sinner was the father of her child. From this initial situation Hawthorne in the scarlet letter has gone on to create a compelling drama of human weaknesses and strengths under the grim shadow of the Puritan author and look back upon this period in the mood of a gentler day. And his story is of course a fiction but he has recreated admirably in this work. The harshness and rigidity of the early Puritan era its fanatical emphasis upon asceticism and conformity which expressed itself in a passion for scapegoating as a means of cleansing the community from sin. The rampant superstition of
the times pervades the entire work. There is a suggestion of witchcraft that Hester was in communication with Satan. But little pearl her child was a demon offspring. This was the atmosphere which was to give rise to the violence and terror of the witch mania of the late seventeenth century. Such an outburst of mass hysteria can be understood only in relation to the asceticism of the time and of the belief in woman's power for evil which goes back to the earliest primitive to Buddha's connected with woman's magic and dominance. The Puritan fathers acting upon to them the highest philosophical principles made a mighty effort to root sin not of the community. And in that effort hundreds of innocent beings not only women but men who were somehow implicated in this evil were persecuted and tortured or hanged. But this excess was followed by a revulsion against the type of thinking which had caused it.
Most of those connected with the judicial proceedings publicly admitted their error. But jurors signed a paper pleading that they had labored under a delusion. And many of those who had confessed themselves witches or of been instrumental in accusing others retracted all they had said and admitted that they had acted under the influence of terror. The clergy lost much of its early prestige and we can do is hold upon the people and the atmosphere became one in which the idea of toleration might be permitted to grow. The reaction of society was a move toward the repudiation of the theory of that woman through Eve was responsible for the sinfulness of man. The beginning of the end of this oldest conflict between men and women. That was part one of the American woman in fact and fiction from Colonial Times to the present day. A series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard. The cast included Charles Levy Lewis Theo joy Cole and Virginia Maynard engineering
American woman in fact and fiction
Sinful Eve
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Early Puritan days; Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter
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Thirteen half-hour programs illustrating with dramatization the changing status of women in America from colonial times to the present day, plus a one-hour panel discussion on modern-day problems.
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Actor: Levy, Charles
Actor: Hill, Lewis
Actor: Cole, Joy
Actor: Matheson, William
Director: Maynard, Virginia
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-19-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:00?
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Chicago: “American woman in fact and fiction; Sinful Eve,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 25, 2021,
MLA: “American woman in fact and fiction; Sinful Eve.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 25, 2021. <>.
APA: American woman in fact and fiction; Sinful Eve. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from