…and now a word from another blog

September 13, 2011


Memoirs of a Female Vagrant

Mary Saxby (1738-1801): 

The girl who ran away with the gypsies
Mary Saxby’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Female Vagrant, was published after her death in 1806, and it is fascinating story of a rebellious 18th century woman.
Mary was born in London, in 1738. Her mother, Susanna died early, and her silk-weaver father John Howell joined the army, leaving Mary to be passed from ‘one relation to another’, never staying long, ‘in consequence of my perverse temper’. Her father eventually returned with a ‘serious’ stepmother, much to Mary’s displeasure, and before reaching her teens she ran away from home.

She lived on ‘rotten apples, or cabbage stalks’ and ‘what the hedges afforded’, while fending off ‘wicked men’ and tramping the countryside around Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Buckinghamshire. Soon, Mary was ‘nearly perished with cold and hunger’ and ‘in a dismal plight’, and would have died, if she had not found a protector, ‘a poor travelling woman’ with three daughters of her own. [read more at Writing Women’s History]



  1. She had quite the life! I wonder if George Sand based her character Maggie Tulliver on her a little bit?

  2. Do you mean Maggie from George Elliot’s “Mill on the Floss’? Not read it (think I’ve lived it) 😦

  3. Yes, at one point she runs away with the gypsies, I believe.

  4. Yup….I ran away with the gypsies metaphorically a month before turning 19. Curiously, my then-BF’s father told me he ran away to the circus in his youth; I sure felt like I had joined a Freak Show!

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