On this day (7 March) in 1826, fifteen-year-old Ellen Turner climbed into a carriage at her school gates thinking she was being picked up to see her mother who’d been taken ill.
Instead, she was being abducted to be forced into marriage to Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who was twice her age. Through this marriage he hoped to gain a large marriage settlement and inherit her family fortune. It wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this.
The case eventually came to trial, and Wakefield was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in Newgate Prison and the marriage was annulled by Parliament.
I share this story on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 (8 March) because this case was at the centre of public debate at the time, highlighting the lack of rights for women and girls in a deeply patriarchal society. That was then, but in 2021 there’s still work to be done to secure women’s rights and equality.