Judith Redman: errant wife or mistreated spouse?

On the 29th July, 1760, and again a week later on the 5th August, the Leeds Intelligencer newspaper carried the following warning about an errant wife.

WHEREAS JUDITH, the wife of John Redman, of Foster-Farm, within Haworth, in the Parish of Bradford, in the County of York, Yeoman, hath eloped from her said Husband:

These are therefore to give Notice to all Persons whatsoever,

Not to give any Credit to the said JUDITH, for Goods, or other Things she may want, for that they will not be paid for the same.

Judith - advert 2

There was nothing particularly unusual in this advertisement: without it John Redman would be fully liable for any and all debts which his runaway wife contracted, and he wished to disassociate himself from her financially. The couple had not been married for quite two years, their wedding taking place at Haworth on the 7th September, 1758. The marriage took place with the consent of parents, so Judith was probably not quite ‘of age’ when she wed John, and the ceremony was conducted by one John Horsfall, officiating minister, maybe a relative of Judith’s.

St. Michael's and All Angel's Church, Haworth © Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org
St. Michael’s and All Angel’s Church, Haworth
© Dave Green via commonswikimedia.org


What is surprising, however, is the response of this wife, for, in her opinion, she was no mere runaway, but a woman who had been ill-treated and hard done by – and she was not about to have her husband deny her the means of getting credit, which she felt that she was well able to repay herself, with or without any help from him!

And so, for the following two weeks, on the 12th and 19th August, 1760, a slightly different advert appeared in the same newspaper.

NOTICE is hereby given, THAT JUDITH, the Wife of JOHN REDMAN, of Foster-Farm near Haworth, in the County of York, who was advertis’d in our last Paper, doth hereby acknowledge to have eloped from her said Husband; but, that such Elopement was not on account of her Extravagancies, as represented, but on account of her said Husband being, in Times, subject to Fits of Phrenzy and Lunacy; and who has made several Attempts to lay violent Hands upon the said Judith his Wife; and that she could not cohabit with her said Husband as she ought, but was in fear of her Life: Therefore,

As the Public is acquainted with the Reasons of the said Judith’s Elopement, ‘tis hoped no Regard will be paid to her Husband’s late Advertisement, but on the contrary, believe the said Judith, for the future, to be a Person of Credit.

Judith - advert 1

Judith Redman, née Horsfall, born c.1737, lived many years after she fled from her husband, and was buried, aged 52 years, in the churchyard of St. Michael in Haworth on the 21st January, 1789. She died of ‘spotted fever’, probably either typhus or meningitis. There is a probable burial for her husband in the same church in 1780.


Obviously, at this remove, we can’t verify either version, but we applaud Judith’s spirit. She can’t have moved far away given that she was buried in the vicinity of her marital home, and so we do hope that the plucky lady managed to live out the rest of her years happily and peacefully, receiving as much credit from the local tradesmen as she was pleased to do so and able to comfortably repay.

N.B. for the definition of spotted fever we used this Glossary of Medical Terms.

See also our previous blog, What’s the going rate for selling your wife?

8 thoughts on “Judith Redman: errant wife or mistreated spouse?

  1. Nancy

    This is a wonderful piece of reporting. Cheers for Judith. One does wonder what happened after she put her notice in the paper. I wonder whether a judge and or jury ever had to rule on whether a husband’s notice in the newspaper about not paying wife’s bills did excuse him from the legal obligation to provide her necessities.


    1. joannemajor

      Thank you for your comment. We’re not sure if a judge or jury ever had to rule on that, but it was an accepted practice at the time for men who didn’t want to be held liable for any debts incurred to post such an advert. This is the first time we’ve seen the wife challenge it though.


  2. Pre the Married Woman’s Property Act, a woman had few choices but to put up with sexual abuse/violence/ from her spouse. Usually it was the rich women who could afford to decamp .. as they had friends to support them. It is fascinating to read of an ordinary woman making a bid for freedom.


  3. jbailey2013

    I came across quite a few wives who responded to their husbands’ adverts like this. These women were proving their right to their husbands’s provision brcause the law acknowledged that wives forced to leave home by their husbands’ cruelty were still entitled to to maintains nance. Some examples are in my book Unquiet Lives. I love these cases!


  4. What an interesting article! Good for Judith. I’d like to think the response was all her idea, but as young as she was, I would guess she had someone advising her on what to do in response to her husband’s advert.


    1. joannemajor

      Glad you enjoyed it. The Horsfall’s look to be a fairly influential family in Haworth, I’m not sure where Judith fits in to them, but I hope she did have people to turn to for advice in how to act.


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