The Sewing Girl's Tale by John Wood Sweet

The Sewing Girl’s Tale by John Wood Sweet

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Sewing Girl’s Tale:

If you can’t trust a brothel keeper, who can you trust?

Quick synopsis:

The story of Lanah Sawyer and her sexual assault in 1793 New York City.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Medical schools used to rob graves to get cadavers for studying.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Trials at this time kept almost no documentation. If not for a reporter who attended, the only thing we’d know from the trial is Lanah Sawyer’s name and the charge.

My Take on The Sewing Girl’s Tale:

There is nothing like good historical true crime to send you into a rage. The Sewing Girl’s Tale is a wonderfully written book which examines the rape of a young woman in 1793 New York. Author John Wood Sweet tells a vividly detailed account of the entire saga from beginning to end. Sweet dives deep into the life of Lanah Sawyer and her rapist, Harry Bedlow. There is an amazing amount of documentation for the 1700s and it provides for a completely different view of post-Revolution New York City.

I would venture two caveats to my enthusiastic review. First, historical true crime requires the author to set the stage and explain the day-to-day life and times of the protagonists. Sweet is meticulous in explaining a tremendous amount of New York City and its people in the 1790s. For those looking for a short and fast narrative which sticks to the bare bones facts, you may be frustrated. I personally loved this aspect, but it is worth pointing out.

Second, John Wood Sweet clearly has a strong perspective on these people and events. While praising Lanah and demonizing Harry is straightforward, there are times where some readers could perceive a bias. If you are someone who will swear off a book because you don’t agree with a certain viewpoint then this may prove a challenge for you. While I didn’t necessarily agree with Sweet in all interpretations, it did not hinder my enjoyment of the book overall.


A very good historical crime story. Buy it here!

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