Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Kyle F. Zelner

Advisor Department



This thesis uses the law codes and court cases of sexual misconduct from the colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania to determine the degree to which the colonies’ stated understandings of the relationship between church and state were practically applied to the governing of their societies as well as how that understanding affected the daily lives of colonial women. Thus, this analysis uses the lens of female sexual deviance to determine the degree to which church and state were integrated or separated within the three colonies.

Chapter 1 discuses the law as it was written. It examines the sexual misconduct laws published by each colony from the years 1630-1750 and compares those laws in terms of severity and variety. Chapter 2 analyzes a sample of the court records for each colony regarding female sexual deviance. These statistics are compared in terms of frequency, severity of punishment, and variety of convictions. The Conclusion sums up these findings and locates them within the larger argument regarding each colony’s interpretation of the relationship between church and state and how that interpretation corroborates or contradicts what other historians have argued concerning these positions. The project ultimately finds that each colony’s governing bodies were in fact influenced by their respective religions, however, to varying degrees and in unique ways.


Honors College Award: Top Thesis