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Sunday on Book Breaks: Bancroft Prize-winner John Wood Sweet discusses “The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America”

September 03, 2023
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Teachers, students, and history lovers are invited to join Book Breaks on Sunday, September 3, at 2 pm ET!

Join The Hilder Lehrman Institute in conversation with 2023 Bancroft Prize-winner John Wood Sweet on his book The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America.

One night in the summer of 1793, a crime was committed in the back room of a New York brothel—the kind of crime that even victims usually kept secret. Instead, seventeen-year-old seamstress Lanah Sawyer did what virtually no one in US history had done before: she charged a gentleman with rape. The ensuing dramatic trial exposed a predatory sexual underworld, sparked riots in the streets, and ignited a vigorous debate about class privilege and double standards. The ongoing conflict attracted the nation’s top lawyers, including Alexander Hamilton, and shaped the development of American law.

John Wood Sweet is professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Register for this week’s program here.

Access to Book Breaks and its archive is free for all students, teachers, and college faculty. Simply visit this page to register.

For the general public, a one-year $25 subscription includes full access to the weekly live program and our ever-expanding Book Breaks archive featuring more than 100 conversations with historians. Subscribe here.

Join us Sunday: Learn more and register!

Submit your questions for John Wood Sweet

Middle and high school students are encouraged to submit a question for our Book Breaks historians. Submit your question by Thursday, August 31.

If your question is chosen, it will be announced live on the program and you and your parent or teacher will each receive a $50 gift certificate to the Gilder Lehrman Gift Shop.


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History