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Alicia Martin BISHOP





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - The first woman in the colonies who was hanged
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 22, 1648
Date of birth: 1616
Victim profile: Her 4 year old daughter, Martha Clark
Method of murder: Cutting her throat
Location: Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Executed by hanging on October 4, 1648

On October 4, 1648 - 32 year old Alice Martin Clarke Bishop was hanged at Plymouth, Massachusetts for stabbing to death her 4 year old daughter, Martha, an event of which she said she had no recollection of.


Alice Bishop had the distinction of being the first woman in the colonies who was hanged. The charge was that she murdered her own 4 year old daughter. There were witnesses who observed the dead child shortly after the murder took place. The little girl had been stabbed to death and the murder scene, on the second floor of the family home, was a bloody mess. Alice admitted that she killed her daughter.

She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until she was dead. The sentence was carried out and Alice was executed in 1648. Nowhere in the record, however, is the why. Why did Alice brutally murder her daughter? Perhaps the reasons for such acts were not considered important during the early colonial years.


Alice Martin Bishop

Mayflower Passenger, Wife of Richard Bishop, Parents of Damaris Bishop. In 1648, Alice Bishop was hanged for slashing the neck of her 4-year old daughter Martha with a knife, while Martha was sleeping in her bed. Executed by Hanging. Probably the first women hung in the new colonies. Location of death & Burial unknown.

Sadly the Mayflower Society does not recognise Alice Martin as the daughter of Christopher Martin.

Here is an interesting article on the Murder trial of Alice Martin [she was hung for stabbing to death her daughter Martha Clark in 1648] in the book "PLYMOUTH COLONY and its PEOPLE " by Stratton.

Today this crime would probably be attributed to Post Partum depression.

1. ALICE MARTIN was born c. 1620 in ENGLAND/MA?, and died c. 04 Oct 1648 in SCITUATE, PLYMOUTH CO, MA1. She married (1) GEORGE CLARK 22 Jan 1639 in PLYMOUTH CO, MA2. She married (2) RICHARD BISHOP 05 Dec 1644 in SCITUATE, PLYMOUTH CO, MA3.



"In July 1648 a coroners jury reported that "coming into the house of the said Richard Bishope, we saw at the foot of a ladder which leadeth into an upper chamber, much blood; and going up all of us into the chamber, wee found a woman child, of about foure yeares of age, lying in her shifte uppon her left cheeke, with her throut cut with divers gashed crose wayes, the wind pipe cut and stuke into the throat downward, and a bloody knife lying by the side of the child, with which knife all of us judge, and the said Allis hath confessed to five of us at one time, that shee murdered the child with the said knife" Rachel Ramsden testified that when she went to Richard Bishops's house on an errand, "the wife of the said Richard Bishope requested her to goe fetch her some buttermilke at Goodwife Winslows, and gave her a ketle for that purpose, and shee went and did it; and before shee went, shee saw the child lyinge abed asleepe ..., but when shee came shee found [Alice Bishop] sad and dumpish; shee asked her what blood was that shee saw at the ladders foot; shee pointed unto the chamber, and bid her looke, but shee perseived shee had killed her child, and being afraid, shee refused, and ran and tould her father and mother. Moreover, shee saith the reason that moved her to think shee had killed her child was that when shee saw the blood shee looked on the bedd, and the child was not there". The child was Alice (Martin) Clarke Bishop's daughter, Martha Clark, by Alice's first husband, George Clark. On 1 August, 1648, Alice Bishop confessed she had murdered her daughter and said she was sorry for it. And on 4 October 1648 she was sentenced to be hanged, which accordingly was executed".

In the fall of 1648 - 32 year old Alice Martin Clarke Bishop was hanged at Plymouth, Massachusetts for stabbing to death her 4 year old daughter, Martha, an event of which she said she had no recollection of.

Stratton, Eugene Aubrey. Plymouth Colony, Its History & People, 1620-1691. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Pub., 1986. Print. pp. 159/60.


Alice Bishop

On October 4, 1648, 32-year-old Alice Bishop was hanged on the gallows in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts for the murder of her young daughter — an apparently motiveless crime which must have shocked her fellow settlers.

Almost nothing is known about Alice’s early life. She probably, although not definitely, came over on the Mayflower. The prevailing theory is that her parents were Mayflower passengers Christopher Martin and Marie Prower. They died within a week of each other in January 1621, before the actual settlement of Plymouth even began.

If that’s the case, Alice had been an orphan for the better part of a year by the time the first Thanksgiving rolled around. She was presumably raised by one of the other families. She would marry twice and have three daughters: Abigail, Martha and Damaris.

By 1648, Alice was living with her second husband, the Plymouth newcomer Richard Bishop, who was Damaris’s father. The family seems to have been unexceptional, just another household trying to eke out a living in a harsh and unforgiving environment.

Somewhere along the line, something went very wrong.

On July 22, 1648, while Richard Bishop was away from home, family friend Rachel Ramsden dropped by the Bishops’ residence and spent some time with Alice. Alice’s four-year-old middle child, Martha Clark, was asleep in bed in the loft, which was accessible by ladder. (Where the other two children were has not been recorded.)

At some point, Alice gave Rachel a kettle and asked her to go fetch some buttermilk from a neighbor’s house.

When Rachel returned, she noticed blood on the floor beneath the ladder. Alice was “sad and dumpish,” and when Rachel asked her what was going on, she wordlessly pointed up at the loft.

Rachel climbed up to have a look: there was blood everywhere; Martha’s mattress was drenched in it.

Rachel fled the house in a panic, found her parents and told them she thought Alice had murdered her daughter. Her father rushed to find the colonial governor. A posse of twelve armed men assembled and went to the Bishop house. By the time the men arrived, Alice was in hysterics.

Ascending to the loft, they found Martha’s body. The child was lying on her left side, “with her throat cut with divers gashes crose wayes, the wind pipe cut and stuke into the throat downward, and the bloody knife lying by the side.” Nothing could be done for her.

Alice freely admitted she had murdered her daughter and said she was sorry for it, but she claimed she had no recollection of the crime. When they asked her why she’d done it, she had no answer for them.

She was the fifth person hanged in the Plymouth Colony, and the first woman.

We will never know why Alice Bishop killed her daughter Martha, and why she did it in such a ferocious manner. One of her descendants has a website about her that attempts to answer that question.

Severe mental illness, perhaps post-partum psychosis, is an obvious answer, but not the only one. The site notes another potentially significant fact: both of Alice’s parents died when she was four years old, and she killed her daughter at the same age.

Richard Bishop survived his wife by nearly a quarter-century. As for the children: youngest child Damaris Bishop grew up, married and had three sons, but Abigail Clark, Alice’s oldest child, vanishes from history after her mother’s execution.



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