Skip to content Skip to navigation

Jane Pirie & Marianne Woods

19th century Scottish schoolmistresses who had a passionate friendship that resulted in a famous libel trial when they were accused of lesbianism. The episode was fictionalized in the Lillian Hellman play The Children’s Hour.

LHMP entry

As we enter the 19th century, this chapter centers around the famous 1811 trial in which two schoolmistresses, Miss Woods and Miss Pirie, were accused by a student of lesbianism and successfully sued the student’s guardian, Dame Gordon, for libel. The focal point of the trial was the argument that proper English ladies simply were not capable of behavior of that sort, while the lawyers for Dame Gordon dug into history as far back as Lucian’s Dialogues of the Courtesans to demonstrate the existence of the behavior that the two women were accused of.

Subscribe to Jane Pirie & Marianne Woods