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A Case of Seduction: Sexual Violence and the Law in Southern Alberta, 1922
The Phillips seduction case, tried in a Lethbridge, Alberta court in 1922, reveals that the extent to which the law of seduction empowered women to pursue justice in cases of sexual assault was limited by the ways in which patriarchal society regulated women’s sexuality. May Phillips was a white, American-immigrant teenager living with her family in the Wrentham sectional house in 1922. She was repeatedly assaulted by John Johnson, the forty-year-old section foreman. In court, both crown and defense characterized Phillips and Johnson in ways that reflect patterns present in other seduction cases. The degree to which May Phillips and John Johnson fit social expectations of, respectively, the victim and assailant of seduction was a key aspect of the case. The law against seduction, in which precedents were steeped in highly gendered and patriarchal notions of morality and social purity, only protected women who would be understood by the court as deserving of protection. Establishing moral superiority over the perpetrator was crucial. Although pregnancy and abortion were often common to seduction cases the victim was required to prove that she was previously chaste.
Bachelor of Arts
Mount Royal University
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
Undergraduate Student Research