Saturday, August 22, 2009

History Saturday

Did ya know that Mary Surratt was the first female in the United States to be executed? In 1865, she was arrested and charged for conspiracy and with aiding the assassins and assisting their escape. Who was she accused of conspiring against? President Abraham Lincoln.

After her husband died, Mary moved with her two kids, Anna and John Jr., to Washington D.C. Her Surrattsville Tavern was being rented to a man named John Lloyd. To make extra money she began renting space in her Washington D. C. residence as well. During the Civil War, John Jr. became a confederate spy and messenger. He met John Wilkes Booth who became a regular at the Surratt boardinghouse.

Some believe Mary knew about the kidnapping but not the assassination plot about President Lincoln. As many reported conspirators came and go in her home, it's possible that through Booth's charm she turned a blind eye. Some women are willing to ignore a man's faults despite it all, but I have to say I have much sympathy for her. She was looking for some affection especially since her husband, some believe, may have turned her into a prostitute at one point. Booth provided that for her whether or not he cared for her or not.

She was arrested on April 17th. She was tried along with seven other men but claimed her innocence the whole time. The jury voted for the death penalty but also recommended mercy considering her age and sex. The recommendation was to give her life in prison, but in the end she was sentenced to death by hanging.

As the day approached, it is said that her daughter Anna went to the White House and spoke with the first daughter, pleading for her mom's life. However, she was told nothing could be done. On July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt along with the seven men was executed. She pleaded her innocence up to the very last second. She is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington D.C. Her son John Jr. was also tried as a conspirator but resulted in a hung jury. He was eventually let go.

There are claims that she haunts the two locations: Mary Surratt's boarding house (which is now Wok 'n' Roll Restaurant) and the Surrattsville Tavern. To learn more about Mary Surratt visit the Abraham Lincoln Research Site.