Professor Erika Pérez writes on Verso, the Huntington Library’s blog, about the late 19th Century case of Jessie Marshall v. Jacob Taylor. Taylor, a married San Diego hotel owner, was found liable to Marshall, who was a 16-year-old waitress at the hotel. When the Supreme Court affirmed the $25,000 judgment against Taylor, it described his conduct as: “with force and violence [he] made an indecent assault upon [Marshall], and then and there wickedly seduced, debauched, and carnally knew her, when and whereby she became pregnant with child.” (Marshall v. Taylor (1893) 98 Cal. 55, 56.)

Among other things, the court rejected an excessive-damages argument, saying, “Courts are not disposed to make smooth the ways of the seducer.” (98 Cal. at p. 62.)

Pérez reports, “The Los Angeles Area Court Records, an extensive collection of historical cases that the Los Angeles Superior Court placed on long-term deposit at The Huntington in 1996, offer researchers like me invaluable evidence of everyday contestations over sexuality and gender relations in early California, the blurring of lines between sexual consent and coercion, and abuses of women whose economic survival was at stake.”