A Sporting Woman

A few weeks ago I received the civil war pension records for my ggg-grandfather’s bigamist brother Isaac Lightcap. The records reveal quite a character – a very attractive man who enjoys a drink… or two… or three…  The bigamy speaks for itself.

Discusses the Pension System regarding the Act of August 7, 1882

At first, I felt sorry for his second wife, Emily Hair.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  Her husband dies in 1878, a little over 4 years after they married.  She’s left a widow in her 30s.  In 1895, she’s dropped from receiving Isaac’s pension on the ground that she’s “violated the Act of August 7, 1882, by open and notorious adulterous cohabitation since death of soldier”. She denied this charge.

Yes, the U.S. government determined that a widow could commit adultery on her deceased spouse.  The article at the right, published in the Toledo Blade on November 14, 1901, p. 8, details the government’s reasoning.

Emily tries to get the pension reinstated; then in 1897, another woman, Martha Gillett, applies for Isaac’s pension claiming to be his wife .

What a mess, though an interesting and intriguing one.

So I start to skim the interviews the government conducted on Emily’s associates.

One term appears over and over again in these interviews: “she is a sporting woman”.  This term applies, not only to Emily, but most of the women interviewed.  A sporting woman? WTH does that mean? She likes to play sports?

Since I had absolutely no idea what the term meant, I asked my mom who was surprised I didn’t know.

Do you know?  I was very surprised.

A sporting woman = prostitute

A prostitute?  Emily is a prostitute?! Didn’t see that one coming.

Instead of skimming the depositions, I actually read them this time.

Here’s what I discover:

  • The government interviewed several prostitutes, all who label Emily a sporting woman.
  • Emily was a prostitute before her marriage and after Isaac’s death.
  • Emily is the only person who doesn’t think she falls into this category.
  • Emily knew nothing about her husband.  She couldn’t even identify him when shown a picture.
  • Emily knew a lot of unsavory characters.

Then I read that where she states that she had six children with Isaac, all who died. They were married for less than 4 years; I’m skeptical they had 6 children.  Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

So my sympathy for Emily has diminished.  If there wasn’t a marriage certificate which shows that Isaac and Emily married, I’d doubt the veracity of her marriage claim.

Comments

  1. What an interesting find!

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